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‘Pirates’ set to invade stage


Avast ye music lovers!

A bevy of buccaneers and comely lasses will be boarding the stage for swashbuckling action and sensational song with Fort Frances High School’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” which opens tonight at the Townshend Theatre.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera has been a favourite of musical theatre since its debut in 1879.

“Of all the Gilbert and Sullivan, it’s my favourite,” said producer and FFHS music teacher John Dutton. “It’s a show I’ve always liked.”

The students are enjoying the production, as well, which began with auditions in early January.

“The kids are really excited about it. They really like the show,” Dutton said. “It’s very different from anything we’ve done before.”

About 65 students are participating in this year’s musical production, including a number of male actors, who sometimes are difficult to recruit.

“We have lots of guys this year,” Dutton said. “Lots of boys auditioned for the lead. Lots wanted to be the Pirate King.”

That coveted role was landed by Kenneth Kellar, who played Jean Valjean in Fort High’s production of “Les Misérables” last year.

This year’s production features about 20 pirates, about 20 police officers, and nearly 20 daughters of the Major General.

The story centers around Federic, who as a child was apprenticed to a band of tender-hearted pirates by his nurse, who misheard her master’s orders to apprentice him to a pilot.

He is happily freed of his service when he turns 21—only to learn he was born on Feb. 29 (leap year) and so must remain an apprentice to the pirates until his 21st birthday.

The story also involves a Major General with a large group of unmarried daughters and a group of police officers who behave more like the Keystone Cops.

Despite the fact the play is more than 100 years old, the story still appeals today.

“The humour still makes sense,” Dutton noted.

The crew held a rehearsal Sunday that went well, he added.

“I was pretty pleased. It was their first time singing with the orchestra,” Dutton remarked. “There are some mega tempo changes in this.

“It went a lot smoother than I anticipated.”

The students also showed enthusiasm for the material. “I’m excited,” Dutton enthused. “The energy was really good.”

Also contributing to the show is Jean-Marc Blanc, who has volunteered to be the artistic director. Blanc has been helping the students with their mannerisms and accents, among other things.

“Jean-Marc has been great,” Dutton said. “He’s very creative.”

Some 25-30 mothers also have been helping out, sewing about 100 costumes for the production.

Dutton noted some coloured tights have been purchased for the pirates, but admitted it may be hard to convince the teen boys to put them on.

“Wait till you see the pirates,” he chuckled.

“The Pirates of Penzance” runs tonight through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Tickets, which cost $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors, are available in advance at Northwoods Gallery & Gifts and at the door.

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