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On the spry seas

The Pirates of Penzance is a jaunty walk down the plank

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Dante Martinez, Brantley Scott Haines, Matthew Newton - and Rick Jewel illustrate life on the high seas through - June 4 at the Fine Arts Center.
  • Dante Martinez, Brantley Scott Haines, Matthew Newton and Rick Jewel illustrate life on the high seas through June 4 at the Fine Arts Center.

Amy Sue Hardy clearly revels in talking about Mabel, the young maiden she plays in the Fine Arts Center's upcoming production of The Pirates of Penzance.

"She's not going to take any crap from anybody," Hardy says, adding, "Women are going to take charge."

Like most works of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, Pirates is known better for its convoluted plot and larger-than-life characters than its take on gender issues. But in the final show of the FAC season, Sandra Bray, the center's director of performing arts, intends to reveal a more complex view of female identity at least after our maiden swoons over the hero.

Mabel falls for Frederic (Brantley Scott Haines) as he ends his indenture with a local band of pirates. They dream of a life of married bliss, with Frederic pursuing a new career throwing pirates in the brig, including those who taught him all he knows.

Fearing for his future, the Pirate King (Matthew Newton) finds a contractual loophole that forces Frederic to return to the fold and assist in their battle against Maj. Gen. Stanley and a squad of British Bobbies.

Taking plot lines to new levels of ludicrousness, Pirates is a jaunty show in which light operatic singing emphasizes the sense of the unreal. But that lightness belies the complexity of its staging.

A large cast and extravagant props including a pirate ship with cannons, courtesy of set maestro Christopher Sheley will provide numerous challenges, none of which daunts Bray, who has directed other Gilbert and Sullivan reinterpretations, including Hot Mikado.

"The design team have created a pop-up storybook for adults," she says. "We're trying to make it magical."

In addition to the physical complexities of the show's staging, the performers have to deal with songs that put them through verbal gymnastics, exemplified by the major general's tongue-twisting patter song.

"The patter song is full of arcane facts that are totally useless," says Preston Arnold, who plays the major general. The song's emphasis on quick delivery, rather than lyrical relevance, speaks to the military man's ineffectiveness.

In a show peppered with self-important military men, bumbling Bobbies and underhanded pirates, it promises to be a treat when some sassy wenches whip them into shape.

"We live in a tense time," Bray says. "Pirates is lighthearted, clever and uplifting. You feel good. And why shouldn't we treat ourselves?"

capsule

The Pirates of Penzance

Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays 2 p.m., from May 12 to June 4. Also Saturday, May 20, at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets: In advance, FAC members $24 and non-members $26; at the door, $29. $5 tickets also available for Pirate Family Fun Day, 11 a.m. on May 20.

Call 634-5583 or visit csfineartscenter.org.

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