There’s a band of blundering pirates preparing to make land at Qualicum Beach. Well, in the theatre in Qualicum Beach, anyway.
The ECHO Players are just about ready to put on one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most famous operettas — The Pirates of Penzance — with opening night on April 27 at the Village Theatre.
First-time ECHO Players director Mari Lyn Kelly said she’s quite excited to be directing her favourite Gilbert and Sullivan operetta of all.
And she’s bringing a special touch to this show. While the Pirates of Penzance are so named for the beach in Cornwall, England where they made land, said Kelly, this time the comedic tale takes place in Qualicum Beach.
Kelly, who brings quite a bit of experience as both an opera singer and director from Ottawa, said making the change was just a matter of creating a bit of back story.
In the operetta, the pirates are on a beach celebrating the 21st birthday of their indentured slave, Frederic. But they soon realize that, because he is born on February 29th — a leap year — an argument could be made that he is not 21 and cannot leave their service yet.
However, Frederic comes upon the daughters of a Major General who are having a picnic on the beach as well. One of the girls falls in love with Frederic, and he attempts to save them from the pirates.
Kelly explains this unlikely meeting. “The premise is that the Pirate-King read Captain Vancouver’s journals,” she said, and that Captain Vancouver alluded to there being treasure in Qualicum Beach. As for the Major General, he purchased some property in Qualicum Beach, without knowing he had purchased a cemetery. So instead of his visiting girls having a picnic at the cemetery, they head down to the beach.
Other than that, the story is the same, with the pirates being the same hapless and tender-hearted brigands as before, and the plot just as senseless and enjoyable as Gilbert and Sullivan operettas tend to be, said Kelly.
The cast includes 21 members, who have been rehearsing music since January and staging since March. While Kelly went to Victoria to find their Frederic (played by Taylor Fawcett), the rest of the cast is local, she said, with the ECHO Players’ Alan Clift taking the role of Major-General Stanley.
“He’s doing a fantastic job,” said Kelly.
Clift will be performing what Kelly expects to be one of the highlights of the operetta — the song “I am the very model of a modern Major-General.” It’s referred to as a patter song, said Kelly. They are songs with a lot of words that have to be sung quite quickly, and there is generally one in every Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, she said.
“It’s fun for the audience, that’s for sure, because they are always sitting on the edge of their seat: ‘will (the actor) be able to get all those words out?’” said Kelly.
She said to expect minimal sets but colourful costumes, lots of singing and an entertaining show. She notes that, for those inclined to study their history, a look into the politics of the period in which this play was written would help to broaden one’s understanding of the satire. But there is no need if you’re simply looking for a good time.
The show runs from April 27 to May 14 at the Village Theatre. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. The box office opens Tuesday, April 11. For ticket info, call 250-752-3522.
Free ticket contest
The NEWS has four pairs of tickets to the ECHO Players The Pirates of Penzance performance. Dates are April 27, April 29, and May 4.
Anyone interested in winning a pair of tickets can enter by emailing The NEWS at firstname.lastname@example.org. In your email, you must include your full name, what city/town you live in, your preferred dates and your phone number.
The deadline to send in your email is Friday, April 15. Winners wil be contacted Saturday, April 16.