New York, Day 4, Part 2 (Day 243/365)

Oh. My. God.

And I don’t mean that in a good way.

After a quick bite of pizza for supper, we gathered ourselves and went to see The Pirate Queen, Schönberg and Boublil’s new show. I had not heard a great deal of excited buzz about the show, it’s still in previews, and I had heard a few negative rumors, but I liked Les Miserables, so I booked it.

I should have known better.

After an excruciatingly soggy opening sequence, which didn’t tell us anything except that Grace O’Malley wanted to be a sailor and her daddy the chieftain wouldn’t let her because she was a girl, we finally sort of got under way when she sneaked on board the ship anyway. In disguise! As a boy! And when a storm will capsize the ship unless somebody , somebody!, climbs up there! and gets! that! sail! down!, and look, the cabin boy we’ve never seen before in ultra-closeknit Clan O’Malley is brave! But it’s only Grace. Bad Grace. And then the English attack. Good thing Grace is good with a sword, huh?


There’s a true love, natch, but she’s married off to handsome but creepy Donal of the rival O’Flaherty clan, natch, but none of this goes anywhere. (Donal looks like a buff Legolas, an unfortunate design choice which is only reinforced in the tavern scene with curly-headed drinking partners: oh, look, they’ve got hobbits, too!) More “You’re a girl” crap. And then we meet Elizabeth I. It is a measure of this show that the English court under Elizabeth I is the comic relief.

Act II (I’m going to skip some here) opens with Grace having a baby on board her ship. The English attack, and her scum husband Donal wants to surrender. Thank goodness Tiernan, her true love, suggests otherwise, and of course Grace rouses herself from her childbed to stab an English or two. Then she sends Donal packing, under a peculiarly generous hold-harmless clause in sixteenth-century Irish marriage law.

I will spare you the rest of the show.

It is hopeless, this show. I cannot wait to read the review after it opens Thursday night.

However, if anyone knows Frank Galati, the director, or Graciela Danielle, the “musical staging” person, pass them these notes:

Cut the opening. Start with the storm. Same scenario, and that’s how we meet our star.

Give her one “Ariel” number, then don’t bring up the “You’re a girl” thing again until the inevitable song paralleling Grace and Elizabeth’s boy troubles.

After we discover, gasp, that the cabin boy is a girl, and do not mention the chieftain’s daughter before that, please, have Dad decide to send her home. But then the English attack. Then she gets to stay. Introduce the boyfriend then.

Cut to Elizabeth. Establish her as Grace’s equal in spirit. Spread the wit/venom/comedy around Ireland as well as England.

Cut back to Ireland. Just as boytoy Tiernan is about to ask for Grace’s hand, Daddy, flush with victory, announces the O’Flaherty alliance.

They’ll have to figure out how to make the Grace/Tiernan/Donal triangle work, I can’t do everything, but I do have one more critical idea for them.

Lord Bingham is a highlight of the show, but cut him. Instead of him, use Essex. If you’re going to screw with history, at least use the good parts. Essex was and could be in this show Elizabeth’s love and bête noire. Elizabeth sends her boytoy to fight Grace. He could succeed. Go ahead and imprison Grace (as happens in the show now). But blend Essex’s betrayal of Elizabeth with Tiernan’s sacrifice for Grace. Elizabeth executes Essex; Grace sails home with Tiernan. Big number for all.

The whole point of the musical was not Grace’s love story. It’s the pitting of one powerful woman against another in an age that did not trust or value either one. Love’s part of a total person’s package, sure, yada yada yada, but I would never in this day and age have your plucky heroine who has spent the entire musical whining about how cool it is to be a woman to crown her story with a lyric about not being a real woman until she listens to her heart.

So yes, as usual, I think I could do better. But not with Boublil & Schönberg. They’ve lost any talent they had for songwriting. God, that music was boring! Get me Ahrens & Flaherty on the phone. Pirate Queen is going down with the ship.

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