The Pirate Queen began its pre-Broadway, World Première engagement at the Chicago Cadillac Palace Theatre with previews from 3rd October 2006. It played there until 26 November with the opening night on 29 October. This exciting new musical is a collaboration between Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg and the producers of the worldwide phenomenon Riverdance. It is based on the real-life story of the legendary Irish pirate chieftain, Grace O’Malley, but as usual Alain and Claude-Michel have injected their own special brand of emotion and heart-rending romance. After Chicago, Richard Maltby Jr. collaborated with Alain, revising some aspects of the show and Graciela Daniele joined the creative team to supervise the musical staging. The show opened on Broadway at the Hilton Theatre on 5th April 2007. The audience seemed to love the show, giving standing ovations and talking about it with great enthusiasm afterwards. The critics however took a different stance with reviews that were severe enough to ensure that the show sadly closed after only 85 performances. The Musical World of Boublil and Schönberg takes The Pirate Queen story right up to the Chicago première, at which point the book was finished. However, a second edition of the book, at a later date, will give full details of the changes to the Broadway production and quotes from the reviews etc. In the meantime see Show Updates April 2007 for Interviews, Reviews and Details of the changes made for the Broadway Production. For details and Review of a Japanese Production of The Pirate Queen see Show Updates January 2010.
(Based on Chicago Première)
The Chieftain of the Clan O’Malley, Dubhdara, prepares to set sail on his ship the Ceol Na Mara (the Music of the Ocean).
His young daughter Grania is desperate to accompany her father and her childhood companion Tiernan. But not only are they dangerous times at sea, it was considered bad luck to have a woman on a boat. Grania, still determined to go, disguises herself as a boy and secretly joins them.
Onboard the Ceol Na Mara
During a fierce storm at sea she bravely climbs up to the mainsail spar and cuts down the sail to prevent the ship capsizing. Fondly lamenting his daughter’s tomboyishness, Dubhdara agrees to let Grania stay, and she swears she will serve him and Ireland without fail. Aboard the ship, Grania and Tiernan’s relationship alters from childhood fondness to adult love. During a battle at sea in which the English are defeated, Grania fights fiercely proving her courage and her swordsmanship. She saves her father’s life, and he pronounces her Queen of the Pirates.
Queen Elizabeth’s Bedroom
In England, Elizabeth has just been crowned queen and is eager to prove her statesmanship to the men at court. The courtiers try to convince her that all is well, but her confidante Lord Bingham is forced to admit that they have lost a ship to the Irish, and what’s more to a female captain. Elizabeth is outraged at this and demands that Grace O’Malley be defeated.
Back in Ireland, there is turmoil as English oppression grows. Dubhdara believes that their cause would be strengthened if the warring clans were united through the marriage of his daughter Grania with Donal, son of the chieftain of the neighbouring Clan O’Flaherty. He does not demand this of Grania but leaves her to choose. Grania, although very much in love with Tiernan, puts duty and her country first and agrees to the marriage.
The Shebeen at Rockfleet
Donal, however, is a womaniser and a drunk who most enjoys visiting the shebeen, where there are women of loose morals and plenty to drink, with his mates, and he sees no reason why this should change after the marriage.
In accordance with Irish laws the couple are bound together initially for three years. The clans are united at the wedding and celebrate with much dancing. As Grania and Donal set off for Rockfleet, Tiernan mourns his loss but pledges his constancy to her.
Grania’s marriage proves to be a stormy affair due to Donal’s continued womanising and drinking. When the English attack, it is Grania who leads the women in fighting them off, In the process, she wounds Lord Bingham, ensuring he becomes an even more bitter enemy. She has won the respect of the Clan O’Flaherty, and when Tiernan arrives to tell her that her father is dying, they accompany her back to Clew Bay.
Grania arrives in time to hear her father’s last words and promises him that she and Donal will have a child. With Dubhdara’s death, Grania becomes the chieftain, most probably the first and only woman in this position in Ireland.
Onboard the Ceol Na Mara
Grania, now captain of the ship, gives birth to a son, Eoin, on board. Shortly after, they are attacked by the English, and Grania, still weak from giving birth, leads the battle to defeat them. Donal has shown himself to be a cowardly, drunken traitor, wishing to surrender at the first hint of trouble. Grania is outraged at his behaviour and, in the tradition of the Brehon Law, she dismisses him publicly, officially dissolving their marriage. Tiernan and Grania are now free to declare their love but they both hold back from doing so.
The Queen’s Court
Elizabeth is enraged at Bingham’s failure to defeat Grania, but he has colluded with the treacherous scoundrel Donal to ensure Grania’s downfall.
Donal turns up at the baby’s Christening and demands to see his son. Just as Grania agrees to this, English troops burst in and seize her. Donal reveals his betrayal and tries to take his son. Tiernan tries to stop him, and in the fight Donal is killed. Tiernan takes the child in accordance with Grania’s wishes.
Grania has been in jail for some years, and the English have won supremacy in Ireland. The Irish chieftains come to surrender unconditionally. Tiernan offers the English a trade – his freedom for Grania’s – and the queen agrees. Elizabeth finds herself affected by this turn of events and reflects on her own life as a woman. Tiernan is imprisoned and Grania set free to care for her child, now a young boy.
Grania’s joy at being reunited with her son is tempered by the realisation of how Ireland has changed during her imprisonment. The country has grown desolate, her lands are ravaged, her people are hungry and injustice reigns. Grania decides to go to England to seek an audience with the queen.
The Queen’s Court
These two powerful women, one a reigning queen and another without a crown, find themselves face to face, woman to woman, in private conversation unheard by eager courtiers. The most unexpected truce is hammered out between them, freeing Clew Bay from the worst of English rule. Tiernan is granted his freedom and Lord Bingham falls into disgrace.
Onboard the Ceol Na Mara
Grania and Tiernan are reunited at last. Unencumbered now by war and previous alliances, they can finally pledge themselves to each other.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording is available on Sony BMG Music Entertainment/Masterworks Broadway