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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Raise the Pirate Flag

Theater Review

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A comical group of dimwitted pirates takes a young boy named Jeremy on the ride of his life in How I Became a Pirate, a musical staged by First Stage Children's Theater. After hoisting the Jolly Roger, the pirates display their own jolly talents, which include singing, dancing and playing an impressive variety of musical instruments. The show goes full-throttle as the pirates teach Jeremy the basics of pirate life.

Pirate is an appealing treat from start to finish. The pirates are a huge hit with the younger kids, particularly in Act Two. Unable to read a treasure map, the pirates cavort in the aisles at the captain's request. The captain instructs them to do the tango, moon walk and modern dance movements as he "reads" the map. One should have guessed by now that these pirates are about as scary as Santa Claus. The delighted Jeremy almost forgets to tell them he has to be home in time for soccer practice.

The "Arrrgh" cast of young performers was seen during a recent show, with Austin Zdziarski showing amazing aplomb as the young Jeremy. This sixth-grader can do it all: sing, dance and act (like a much younger boy). The adults, too, give it their all. Todd Denning is a hoot as the hip-shaking captain, accompanied by Lee Becker as the one-eyed Sharktooth and Bo Johnson as a pirate who carries a stuffed parrot on his shoulder. While all the actors have a chance to shine, James Valcq's performance as Pierre the French chef is particularly noteworthy.

The play is set on a gorgeous "wood" galleon, beautifully outfitted with lighted lanterns, realistic rigging and other top-notch features. It runs through May 17 in the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.