Pirates, romance and comedy fill the stage at Buena Vista High School’s Flex Commons during the High Country Fine Arts Association’s adult production of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’.
This comic opera, made famous by Arthur Sullivan and WS Gilbert, centers on Frederic who has just completed his 21st year as an apprentice with a band of pirates and seeks to woo the woman he has just fallen in love with: Mabel , the daughter of Major-General Stanley.
Things get complicated, however, when the pirates decide to marry Mabel’s sisters, much to their father’s dismay, and Frederic discovers that his birthday was actually February 29.
“Based on his date of birth, he’s actually only 5 years old,” says Brandon Chism, who plays Frederic. “He can’t leave them until he’s 21, decades later. It’s part of the irony and the comedy with that.
Chism was heavily involved in acting during his high school and college years, but not as often since then.
He was approached months ago by BVHS choir and acting teacher Tanner Oharah to participate in this production, and he was all too happy to participate.
Frederic is a tenor role, and Chism trained as a tenor in college but now sings more baritone.
“It’s a bit of a stretch for me, but I really like it,” he says. “It’s great fun, lots of memorization that I haven’t done in a long time. That was kind of the biggest job for me.
“It’s much lower than classical opera,” says director Erin Buterbaugh. “It’s more singable, there’s a bit more humor, the songs are a bit more melodious. It’s kind of the first American musical, and a lot of the songs they wrote for their operettas were then popular songs on sheet music.
Buterbaugh has choreographed Buena Vista High School productions for the past 7 or 8 years. While she was aware of the HCFAA beforehand, this is her first time participating in a non-school theater production.
“I’m really excited. I love this show,” she adds. “When I was little my dad was in charge of renting the movie for movie night and he came home with a VHS copy. of the film version with Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt… We loved it. It’s just hilarious and the music is fabulous and the local talent that came through is just a really strong cast.
With a cast of 16, this musical is the first adult production HCFAA has put on in some time.
“It’s glorious. I think it’s wonderful,” says Jim Oliver, who plays Major General Stanley. “We have this beautiful space. Before, we didn’t have the high school space and we didn’t want to work in the old high school because the space was too small.
Oliver has been involved with HCFAA since moving to Buena Vista in 1997. The association was working on the musical “Brigadoon” at the time, and Oliver agreed to help.
“I was on the board for a while,” he says. “It was difficult to organize auditions and difficult to organize enough people to do it. They had traditionally done big shows with 40 people, and so we thought along those lines at the time, ‘Oh, we need 40 people to put on a show.’
It was unlikely that many people would perform on stage at any given time, especially with people also leaving the theater. The association realized that it had to give up making productions with actors of this size.
“Now we have this space and we have more people than before – a whole new generation of really talented people,” says Oliver. “I hope they want to do it again and again.”
“For a lot of us who don’t really get to play that much – some of us directors, some of us in choirs here or there – to do something like that in a full production, I think it’s really special for a lot of us who can’t do it anymore,” Chism says.
Even when rehearsals had just started a week after the show dates, they were a pretty intensive process. “When your cast is all grown-ups and they’re all professional and really on their game, you can put on a show pretty quickly,” says Buterbaugh.
Buterbaugh hopes to see support for the show from theatergoers and the community at large. “I think people will be thrilled to see faces from their community, maybe they know of other places, from church or school or local sports teams, and to see those people in a role different from the one to which they are accustomed. I think it will be really fun for the community and the local art scene,” she says.
“Pirates of Penzance” takes the stage at 7 p.m. on Saturday June 25 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday June 26. Tickets can be purchased at bvhsco.booktix.com or at the door.