By MIKE CHAIKEN
The members of Bristol Eastern Theatre Arts are taking a left turn from the typical high school musical fare.
The student actors and singers are taking on Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic comic opera, “The Pirates of Penzance.” The show opens May 2 and runs through May 4.
The story of the classical piece, which was written in the 19th century, follows young Frederick, who had been indentured to pirates, and when he returns from sea, he falls in love with young Mabel. And between cops and pirates, great hijinx ensues.
The young actors who have the roles of the four lead characters—Zach Cote (Frederick) Anna Thomas (Mabel), Jean-Claude Mouannes (The Pirate King), and Marissa Padilla (Ruth)—said they had never been exposed to Gilbert and Sullivan’s work at any level prior to “The Pirates of Penzance.” But each have fallen in love with the work.
Marissa said, “I like that it’s still funny even though it was written in the 1800s.”
“I like the fact you have to pay attention to get the jokes,” said Zach. “You know who is paying attention and who’s sleeping. But, nobody should be sleeping because it’s a really good show.”
Anna said, “The thing I love about the show is the music is so different from the poppy musical … it’s so classical. And some of the music is so beautiful and it’s so fun to do.” Plus, Anna added, “The pirates are everywhere. It’s just awesome. I love it.
“It’s so different from what we’ve done over the years,” said Jean-Claude. For audiences, he said, “It’s so unexpected.
“I fell in love with the show already,” said Jean-Claude.
Although the show is dramatically light-hearted, musically, Gilbert and Sullivan’s work carries a lot of musical heft. And it is putting the musical skills of the BETA cast to the test.
“For Mabel’s part,” said Anna. “The notes are unbelievably high… It’s crazy… It’s a lot of work. (But) it’s so much fun.
“Frederick has the highest tenor part I’ve done ever,” said Zach. “And it’s really challenging to me because I’m used to musical theater that’s more baritone… This (vocal range) is just insane. It’s really cool I get to take advantage of it.”
“What I like about it is it challenges us as singers,” said Jean-Claude. “Most of us are in choir already… (‘Pirates…’ is) more operatic singing… (and) it all leads back to what our choir director teaches.”
And Marissa said besides the solo parts, “holding the harmonies are really hard.”
“The Pirates of Penzance” is known for its over-the-top comedy as well as its music.
“I usually have to bite my tongue…,” said Anna. “Everything is so funny… You have to keep a straight face… You have to make it seem like you’re not trying to sell the joke.”
And as audiences ponder what to do May 2 to 4, Zach said, they shouldn’t “look at this as an old opera. But keep an open mind and enjoy the show.”
Anna added, “We’re a bunch of teenagers doing an operetta from the 19th century…The sets are going to be awesome… Come out.”
“The Pirates of Penzance” will be performed by Bristol Eastern Theatre Arts at Bristol Eastern High School, 632 King St., Bristol. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. Admission is $8 for students, staff, and seniors, and $10 for general admission. Tickets at the door or by calling (860) 584-7876 ext. 227.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com