by: Marilyn Lester
Avast matey! There be rum and a-listen’in to hornpipes and jigs await’in ye at The Snapple Theater Center, so adjust yer eye patch, and prepare for piracy at the madcap, interactive The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told! (Rated ARRRRR! version for adults).
This semi-scripted, largely improvised musical lunacy centers around pirate Henry Martin (playwright Christopher Leidenfrost), Captain of the goode shippe DInglehop, and his bumbling crew: Percy Primwhite (David Anthony), Lucia la Bella.. de Monchego (Rebeca Diaz), Liberia Lambshackles (Risa Petrone) and Angus McScagg (Kevin Maphis/Daniel Pivovar). band of unfortunate swashbucklers encounter a storm at sea and wind up in the clutches of a crone, the sea witch Sa’almanella – a creaky character of Shakespearean proportions (a nod here to “the Scottish play”). You may wonder also if you’ve drifted into a piratical Midsummer Night’s Dream – such is the zaniness of the “Mechanicals” who inhabit this pun-filled, freebooting farce.
Captain Martin and his crew are flung into the future by the witch’s curse, and find they’ve landed on the stage of a New York City theater. Their script is torn asunder, and this is where you, good audience, come in, to help them return to their own time. A program note lets you know “this show be interactive! Feel free to shout things out when ye be called upon!” The crew of energetic pirate-actors are excellent improvs, and so keenly attuned to the suggestions shouted out to them you may wonder if there are “ringers” in the audience feeding them prearranged cues (not the case).
Drawing from the classical, The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told! blends the two masks of comedy and tragedy in perfect proportion: lost at sea and horribly far from all they know, only funny bits can help them out now. The slapstick stage antics generate laughs all around, and adults will find additional amusement in the cleverness of the story within a story device. Here, the opportunity is seized not so much to drive argumentative points home, but with a wink and a nod to the art of playwriting itself. At just the right point in the story, for example, Captain Martin announces a villain is needed. A prop is chosen by an audience member ( a Frosty the Snowman hand puppet in this instance), and voila! the nemesis appears – The Evil Señor Frosty.
In the classical sense, a tragi-comedy can only be resolved with death, and so a comic bomb is produced – one of those big black balls with a fuse. An “explosion” ensues, and when the dust settles the lifeless crew lie about the stage in comic poses. With perfect timing they spring back to life and wonder how on earth they finally can end the story. There is only one way they realize: in a musical, you need – wait for it – a musical number!
Here’s the payoff. The finale, one of a handful of cheerful tunes that dot The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told!, is a tour de force of punning and satire, sending up a slew of other musicals including Annie, Wicked, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and of course, The Pirates of Penzance. And because a happy ending is definitely required, Sa’almanella returns with the solution to the problem she created in the first place: the pirates don’t have to return to their own time after all. They can remain in New York City, become actors, and have fun on the stage indefinitely! The implication is, as director Rick Leidenfrost-Wilson notes, that the show is never the same twice, so please come back again and again.
Stage Manager for The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told is Kristi Leigh. Set design is by Katy Roberts, lighting design by Christopher Weston, sound design by Denis Zepeda, and costumes by Scott McNeal. Risa Petrone choreographed the production with fight choreography by Randy Kiersnowsk and Risa Petrone.
Performances of The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told! Rated Arrrrrrr! are Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. and for the specifically family-friendly version of The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told!, Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. The Snapple Theater Center is at 1627 Broadway (at 50th Street), New York, NY 10036. Tickets are $59 and $99, available at the box office, or online from Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 212-921-7862. For further information, go to www.greatestpiratestory.com
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