LSM Newswire

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre in the Canadian Premiere of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance

The Leanor and Alvin Segal Thetre and Reitmans (Canada) Ltd

The Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre and Reitmans (Canada) Ltd. present the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT) in THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Gilbert and Sullivan's misadventure on the high seas, from May 31 to June 16, in Yiddish with English and French supertitles. The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre is proud to bring this Canadian Yiddish premiere to Montreal in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

"It's fun to go back and forth between the 19th-century British silliness and sarcastic, campy Yiddish remarks – and remarkably smooth."

- Backstage, March 19, 2007

"This is England, circa 1890, where the British gentry are fair game for Gilbert's razor sharp wit," explains Director, Bryna Wasserman. "The star of the show, before anyone steps on stage, is without a doubt, the translator." In 1988, Al Grand achieved the monumental task of translating the dizzying tongue twisters and triple rhymes into Yiddish. However, for him it was a labour of love, combining his two great passions: the Yiddish language and the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Grand brilliantly upholds the harmony between Gilbert's lyrics and Sullivan's music while preserving the Yiddish culture and language. As Isaac Asimov, author and Gilbert & Sullivan aficionado, wrote at the time, "Al Grand doesn't change Sullivan's notes; they're all there; every one of them. And he doesn't change Gilbert's words in essence. He changes them into Yiddish, to be sure. But he keeps the rhymes, the lilt and the wit."

"From today you rank as a full-blown member of our band"


"It's your buccaneer Bar Mitzvah"

Grand's adaptation is a delightfully whimsical treatment that transforms the popular standard from British to Yiddish. The original English plotline remains intact with Frederic, an apprentice indentured to pirates until his 21st birthday, wooing Mabel, the Major General's daughter, only to discover that he was born on a leap year and won't be free to marry her until 1940. In the Yiddish version, the Major General becomes the Groyser General, an Orthodox Jew and friend of Benjamin Disraeli. Mabel is Malka, Frederic becomes Fayvl, a Yeshiva student, and Ruth, the hard-of-hearing nursemaid who mistook her master's instructions to apprentice the boy to a pilot (not pirate), becomes Rivke. To her, the wayfaring pirates brandishing their swords appear as a group of kosher butchers and the mayhem that ensues is pure Gilbert and Sullivan hijinks, replete with tongue-in-cheek satire and the legendary high-speed patter.

"He [Al Grand] also ably captures the silly, giddy humour that has endeared Gilbert and Sullivan to generations of fans."

- Forward, December 15, 2006

Gilbert and Sullivan operettas demand strong, nimble vocalists with split-second comedic timing and the DWYT delivers in spades with Gabor Hegedus, from the Segal production of Houdini, in the role of Fayvl opposite Montreal lyric soprano, Kerry-Anne Kutz, as Malka, his love interest. Stephen Mo Hanan reprises his role as the Groyser General from the 2006 New York Off-Broadway production and Jonathan Patterson, who played Ko-Ko in the Janiec Opera Company production of The Mikado, plays the mischievous Pirate King. Michelle Heisler, a DWYT fixture with a versatile range of characters to her credit, steals the show as the well meaning but deaf-as-a-doornail Rivke and Elan Kunin, (Harry Houdini in the DWYT production), rounds out the main cast of characters as the hilarious Head of Police.

Nick Burgess is at the musical helm of this lavish production, overseeing the six-piece live band. Since musically directing The Wise Men of Chelm last year, Nick has added YAYA (Young Actors for Young Audiences), the youth division of the DWYT to his association with the Segal Centre, and is currently developing the "Born for Broadway" program for the Academy. Having performed for eight seasons in various Gilbert and Sullivan productions at Stratford, under the direction of Canadian icon, Brian MacDonald, Jim White's choreography revitalizes the famous farce, drawing on a vast vocabulary from a 35-year career as a dancer and choreographer. Award-winning John C. Dinning, who has designed sets for more than twenty DWYT productions as well as across North America, creates the vibrant 'topsy-turvy' world where pirates and aristocrats collide. Three-time MECCA award winning costume designer, James Lavoie, crafts the grand upper crust attire and colourful buccaneering garb, with Kirsten Watt, having just designed the Segal's sold-out smash, Over the River and Through the Woods, providing the lighting. Paul Brian Imperial stage manages the sizeable 31-member cast, with assistance from Emilie Zifkin and Daphne Ben David.

This year, the annual trilingual offering from the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre is the inaugural production of the first MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL YIDDISH THEATRE FESTIVAL, an ambitious event running from June 17th to 25th, initiated and hosted by the Segal Centre featuring companies from Poland, Israel, Australia, France and more. (For festival details, contact Suzanne Shugar:

Run Dates: May 31 to June 16, 2009


May 31 13.30

June 1, 2 & 3 20:00

Media Opening Night:

June 4 20:00


Mon. – Thurs. 20:00

Friday DARK

Saturday 21:30

Sunday 19:00


Sunday 14:00


Adult: $31 - $44.

Seniors: $29 - $40.

Students: $22

Groups (20 or more) $17 - $34


Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre

Segal Centre for Performing Arts

5170, ch de la Côte-Ste-Catherine

Box Office:

(514) 739 – 7944


(514) 790 - 1245

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