Hoist the flag: Gilbert and Sullivan’s popular Pirates of Penzance is about to sail from Morinville Community High School.
Although the long-lived composing duo was often at loggerheads with each other, Pirates has proved to be a tightly sealed craft that has entertained audiences since 1879.
The main plot is about Frederic, a 21-year-old orphan indentured to a crew of good-hearted pirates. Released from his apprenticeship, he meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley and falls instantly in love. But an unexpected twist from Frederic’s past catches up with him, and the blooming romance threatens to wither.
It is one of the more popular operettas in the English-speaking catalogue. To mount it successfully, the production requires a strong cast and an equally tenacious back-stage team.
Rural high schools often lack the resources and manpower to power its sails. But this year, the stars at MCHS have aligned perfectly to allow the school to put on the production from Dec. 6 through 9.
“We have some very strong voices this year,” says director Vanessa King who is co-navigating the directorial shoals with former student Keegan Mabbutt best known for his role as Grandpa in Willy Wonka.
Rebecca Turnbull, an alumna and fourth-year University of Alberta music education student, is also on deck as the production’s vocal coach.
“I don’t have the skills to teach songs. I couldn’t do it without her,” King adds.
Anchoring the production is Grade 12 student Rory Turner as the roguish Pirate King. A multi-talented artist, Turner also studies piano and is part of the school band program.
“He’s a very strong singer and he’s very theatrical. He’s such a strong singer, he helps teach the other students.”
Grade 12 student Moira Kelly, who just returned after living in Nicaragua for a year with her sister, has been flagged for the role of the hapless Mabel.
“It’s an operetta with very high notes and she never stops singing. Not only does she sing well, she sings a lot. I don’t know if there is another girl in the school who could have hit those high notes.”
Grade 12 actor Brennan Fitzgerald as the honourable Frederick bridges the pirate world and the capsizing vessel of romance.
“Brennan is such a stand-up guy and Frederick is such a good guy. Brennan always does the right thing and Frederick always takes it to the nth degree. And Brennan has such a great speaking voice. We almost gave him the role of Lord Stanley, but this time he is the young romantic and charismatic lead.”
King, who feels a special connection to the score, hopes audiences embark on the musical odyssey with gusto.
“Ben Wisniewski, our shop teacher has even built us a pirate ship and it’s phenomenal.”
Pirates of Penzance
Dec. 6 to 9 at 7 p.m.
Morinville Community High School
Tickets: $8 at Morinville Sobeys and at the door