Peggy Sue Dunigan
Review

How I Became a Pirate at First Stage

By - Apr 22nd, 2009 02:47 pm
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Walk the plank to board a pirate ship bound for one “great big belly laugh” where the audience breaks out in a deep Yo Ho. In the engaging world premiere of How I Became A Pirate, presented over the weekend by First Stage Children’s Theater, this new production captures the dreams of an enchanted voyage for young Jeremy Jacob one summer afternoon — away from the comforts of his home.

(Behind the Scenes Video)

The original story, adapted from Melinda Long’s childrens book of the same name, revolves around music and lyrics by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, who successfully composed the musical Anne of Green Gables produced by First Stage two years ago. This musical show plays to a younger audience, beginning at 3 plus years old (as the program suggests), but adults will enjoy some of the contemporary play on words and sophisticated references in the lyrics under the expertise of Musical Director James Valcq that complements the choreography by Diana Lemense.

Each pirate on this ship, cleverly dressed for the sailing, sings and dances to rhythmic tropical tunes while young Jeremy learns pirate code and language enough to join the crew. When a midnight storm ensues, the mast lets loose over the stage before intermission. In the second act, pirates search the audience. Representing the Arrgh’s cast, Austin Zdziarski as Jeremy Jacob ably handles this zest for sea life, and helps them bury their booty.  But he still longs for soccer games and kisses goodnight.

The cast sets sail on a charming multi-leveled ship by scenic designer Mark Hare.  The audience’s attention remains focused on deck with humorous pirates, who bear “no resemblance to any pirates involved in today’s current events”. Todd Denning creates a lovable Captain Braid Beard complete with a defining bow tied que, and Valcq adds a foreign touch when playing Pierre — the shipboard chef who cooks superb French cuisine. The swashbuckling Sharktooth (Lee Becker) delightfully solos in “I’m A Sensitive Guy”, with a crescent moon hanging in the sky and starlight circles in the spotlight. Young Performer Teddy Warren plays the nerdy Swill with intelligent wit.

Director John Maclay keeps the pirate ship singing every minute, with scant time for dialogue as actors double as the talented pirate band with melodies on guitar, accordion, mandolin and inventive percussion. This First Stage production provides an entertaining journey, the audience smiling until those “tucked in memories and gentle breezes blow you back into home port.”

But only after, as the finale reminds them, “The stars light your own dreams and private schemes.”

How I Became A Pirate runs until May 17. For tickets and information: 414.273.7206 or www.firststage.org

Categories: Theater

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