The stage at the ETC facility on Howard Avenue has been transformed into a pirate ship, ready to take theatergoers out on the high seas … and back in time. Specifically, to the era of swashbuckling pirates. More specifically, lady pirates. Singing, dancing and sword-fighting lady pirates, to be precise.
As you can well imagine, the musical story of The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree is entertainment, pure and simple. And that’s just what director Deb Deckert has in mind as she prepares the cast for next week’s opening of the Elmira Theatre Company production. Since it’s a pirate story, there’s plenty of room to play it for laughs, in a cartoon-like manner.
“I told them all to go right over the top with it. We’re having such a good time,” she said of the actors who’ve been rehearsing the show since January. “It’s been a lot of work, but we’re always laughing and having fun.
“We don’t do musicals all that often, but every now and then we like to do something with music. It’s fun, and it’s a chance to get more people on stage.”
The nature of the show demands a large cast, in this case 37 people ranging in age from 16 to 60s, including newcomers to the theatre company. There are also many family groups involved, including Deckert and her daughter Danielle.
With such a large cast, there’s been a great deal of work getting ready for this one, Deckert noted. Not just learning lines, but singing and dancing too. And, because this is a musical about pirates, the actors have to learn to handle a sword – stylized sword fighting in time with the music.
To make that all possible, she’s relied on ETC stalwart Heather Morris to act as musical director.
“I couldn’t do it without her. The sound that she gets out of people is amazing – she gets quality out of them.”
And because it wouldn’t be a play about pirates without a pirate ship, the crew has outdone itself in building the set for this show, Deckert noted.
“It is amazing what they’ve done. People come in here (the theatre) now and they just smile – it’s a great set.”
The ship that takes sail on Howard Avenue is home to Captain Bree, who steers her vessel to intercept the Kayla May, causing most of the crew to jump ship upon sighting the pirates in the distance. The second ship’s commander, Captain Jennings, is left with a makeshift crew of motley prisoners and Fergus, a sailor who can’t swim, to protect his wealthy passengers, the Prescots, from the pending attack.
The music and laughs begin as the lady pirates take over the defenseless Kayla May. Along with Captain Bree’s hearty crew of mean and nasty mates (and a couple of new recruits in training who keep forgetting to be rough and tough), you’ll find the haughty Professor Bidwell and the pretentious Madam Prescot constantly battling for special treatment and respect from the pirates, Samuel Prescot masquerading as a girl to avoid becoming shark bait, and Julia Prescot bursting with desire to join the lady pirates – much to her aunt’s dismay.
After the pirates send Thomas, the cabin boy, out to sea with a ransom note demanding gold from the British in exchange for the Prescots’ lives, they amuse themselves by auctioning off the male prisoners to do their dirty work and showing Julia the ropes of pirating.
The story – and hijinks – build to a climax with the arrival of the British fleet.
“This is a lot of laughs,” said Deckert. “It’s a family show. You can bring your grandma, you can bring your kids – what kid doesn’t love to dress up as a pirate? – and everyone is going to have a good time.”
The ETC production of The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree runs Apr. 28 to May 15, Thursdays through Sundays. All shows are at 8 p.m., except for the Sunday matinees (May 2 and 9) at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18, available through the Centre In The Square box office by calling 519-578-1570 or online at www.centre-square.com. A limited supply of tickets will be available at the door. All performances are at 76 Howard Ave. in Elmira.