“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!” Arrr–what kid hasn’t wanted to be a pirate? Well, kids are going to love Imagination Stage’s latest family production, How I Became a Pirate. Walt Disney understood the attraction of pirates when he created the Disneyland ride Pirates of the Caribbean nearly 50 years ago and that same fascination is captivating young audience members at Imagination Stage. This show is the first of two shows that the theater is calling their “Pirate Repertory”. Later this summer, Imagination Stage will produce the second pirate themed show Pirates! A Boy at Sea with the same cast of actors.
A band of buccaneers comes across young Jeremy (Josh Sticklin) who is dazzled to meet real pirates. He convinces Captain Braid (Tim Getman) and his merry band to take him along and teach him to be a pirate. Jeremy charms the winsome Skeeter (Colleen Delany) and the likeable but malingering McGee (Phillip Reid) even teaching them to play soccer. However, first mate, Jacques (David Frankenberger, Jr.)—a poor man’s Maurice Chevalier—is anxious as Jeremy becomes closer to the captain when Braid takes Jeremy under his wing. The ever suspicious Stubby (Michael John Casey) does not trust Jeremy and keeps an eye out for non-piratelike behavior. Jeremy learns to swab the deck, speak like a pirate (“Arrr!”) and even steer the ship. But night falls and the spell fades when Jeremy becomes homesick and realizes that without Mom and Dad, no one will tuck him in or tell him a bedtime story. And when a storm comes up and menaces the ship the next day, Jeremy starts to suspect that being a pirate may not be for him. He comes up with an idea to get him home and still be a part of the crew—happy ending!
Tim Getman led this strong ensemble through their paces. He enchanted the room with his roguish charisma and fine comedic timing. He had a wonderful chemistry with Josh Sticklin and created a heart-warming parental bonding. Sticklin had a credible boyish charm that appropriately reflected some of the audience members. He bounded enthusiastically about the stage with childlike energy. David Frankenberger, Jr. milked the silly French accent for all it was worth and managed to make some old jokes seem fresh. Colleen Delaney evoked a lot of sympathy managing to keep her character cheerful despite being the target of a lot of the gags. She showed some great vocal chops singing a snippet of “Memory” from Cats before being cut off because “Pirates don’t sing show tunes!” Phillip Reid entertained the audience with his recurring ailments to avoid any semblance of work mixed in with his creative use of “piratese”. But every show needs a villain and Michael John Casey ably stepped up to bat as the mutiny-minded skeptic. He certainly kept the audience amused although at times he ladled on the pirate accent a little too heavy and it was hard to catch some of his lines. For the most part, the audience was enjoying themselves enough that they didn’t seem to care.
Director Paul Bosco McEneaney has created a wonderful diversion that delights the young and old with an ensemble that is one part Keystone Cops, one part Three Stooges and one large part Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins from “Hook.” The book strikes the right balance of mixing up a simple child-engrossing plot with physical comedy and family-appropriate humor while still throwing in a bit of adult wit to keep the parents entertained. They even turned the ubiquitous pre-show announcements into comedic schtick to get the show off to a great start.
And Getman thrills the audience with a David Copperfield-esque magic act making Sticklin disappear from a glass box suspended over the stage. The simple black box stage with two towers on either side gives the cast plenty of room for frequent clowning around. They also have plenty of space for Stephen Gregory Smith’s choreography which is quite age appropriate. Unfortunately the sound was somewhat over-amplified muffling some lines, especially with the rough pirate accents. The situation got worse when the music started to play and the actors tried to sing in the pirate accents. Lyrics frequently were muffled and hard to understand. One additional caveat is that the theater is well air conditioned. Since most patrons will be dressed for summer, they may be a little chilled by its coolness. There were several children who sat with their legs tucked into and stretching their shirts to try to keep warm during the show.
Advertised for ages 3 and up, this is a perfect summertime draw for the young and old. The show runs one hour and twenty minutes including a fifteen minute intermission… and didn’t lose the attention span of the kids in the audience. Then again, pirates rarely do. Arrr!
How I Became a Pirate
Adapted by and lyrics by Alyn Cardarelli
Music by Steve Goers
Based on the book by Melinda Long, Illustrations by David Shannon
Directed by Paul Bosco McEneaney
Produced by Imagination Stage
Reviewed by Ted Ying
How I Became a Pirate plays thru Aug 15, 2010.
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.
HOW I BECAME A PIRATE