It follows the life of Gráinne O'Malley, who's mainly called "Grace" throughout the musical, who dreams of becoming a pirate captain like her father, Dubhdara, but who is held back by her gender, since women are viewed as being bad luck on a ship. Grace successfully sneaks on board and distinguishes herself, also igniting a romance with Tiernan, a childhood friend, but the English, led by their new queen, Elizabeth, have their eye on England, and Grace will soon have to make the ultimate choice: Freedom or duty.
This work provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Grace.
- All Musicals Are Adaptations: Based on the novel Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas by Morgan Llewelyn.
- Arranged Marriage: Grace and Donal.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Grace and Tiernan. Ends with Tiernan being a Victorious Childhood Friend, marrying Grace and living happily ever after.
- Cool Ship: The titular ship itself. They spend an entire song devoted to how awesome it is.
- Good Parents: Dubhdara. Even though he seems at first to be a Fantasy-Forbidding Father, in the course of one song, he's totally won over by Grace's skills, talking about how proud he is of her and letting her stay on the ship. He hates giving her away in marriage to Donal and, at the end of the first act, he makes her chief in his place.
- Pirate Girl: It's in the title.
- Pregnant Badass: Grace, particularly in the Broadway run where she kills multiple English soldiers IMMEDIATELY AFTER giving birth and then divorces Donal. This is (possible) Truth in Television: There is an oral legend that says that Gráinne ní Mháille gave birth during a battle, rising from her bed to fire on the invading force while berating her men for not being able to do anything on their own.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Grace herself, given that, far from being the nationalist, feminist heroine she's portrayed as here, she was primarily interested in what she got out of whoever was in control of Ireland, and often made deals with English officials and used English laws to her advantage. Not that that would make her any different from other Irish leaders of her time.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: There's really no reason to suppose that Donal was NEARLY as bad as he's portrayed here.
- Let's Have a Cèilidh: Well, more accurately, "a céilí". It WAS choreographed by the same minds that gave us Riverdance, after all. Most notable is at Donal and Grace's wedding and Eoin's christening.
- Misogyny Song: Donal gets "Boys Will be Boys."
- Pimped-Out Dress: Queen Elizabeth gets a LOT, to the point where it was Lampshaded by critics.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Both Bingham and Donal qualify, being virulent misogynists. Bingham in particular gets bonus points for VERY openly claiming that he would NEVER kneel before a woman...before realizing who he's talking to.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Grace disguises herself as a boy in order to sneak onto her father's ship.
- Take Me Instead: Tiernan offers himself up to Elizabeth in Grace's place in "Surrender".
- Villain Song: "Boys Will be Boys" for Donal.