Determined to fill a much-needed gap in family-friendly theater, Asheville Creative Arts is back with its latest show, How I Became A Pirate. The book, music and lyrics are by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, based on the story written by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon.
How I Became A Pirate is a jaunty musical romp that follows a young Jeremy Jacob, who comes upon some pirates while playing at the beach. He is recruited for his impressive digging skills, and sets sail with them. Jeremy soon discovers that his new friends are a generally ill-mannered group with a pirate code that seems appealing. No need to say please or thank you. No pressure to clean up after yourself or even brush your teeth. Young Jeremy is, at first, enamored with the pirate way of life. He soon longs for the normalcy of home, and even begins to influence his swashbuckling friends along the way, showing them that there is value in certain aspects of civility.
Naturally, there’s buried treasure, a map and a talking parrot. Everything you need for a jolly pirate tale.
Reed Atherton is the young Jeremy, infusing the role with a precocious pre-teen charm that instantly endeared him to the children in the audience, including my step-daughter. However, her favorite character was the ne’er do well pirate, Swill. Tristian Cameron plays that slightly smarter first mate, who is always getting yelled at by Captain Braidbeard. Rock Eblen, who is as close as you can get to an actual pirate in real-life Asheville theater, plays Braidbeard with gusto and joy. (Eblen is a producer of theater in his own right, often raising money for Eblen Charities in honor of his late father, Joe Eblen.) Filling out the cast are Tiffany Renee Bear as Pierre, the charming French pirate; and Kelsey Sewell, who plays Sharktooth The Pirate. Sewell also operates Max, the parrot puppet.
The show is lighthearted, fun, silly and filled with laughs for children and their parents. It works well on many levels. The songs are creative and charming, and Robbie Jaeger (who, with Abby Felder, created ACA four years ago) has created some wonderful bits of choreography and direction, making the most of a small ensemble of talented actors. To added effect, they even explore the audience at times, including recruiting an audience member to represent another member of the crew, Scurvy Dog. Scurvy doesn’t actually speak, but rather barks like a dog. During the matinee performance, I was selected for this role — much to the giggles and delight of everyone watching.
WHAT: How I Became A Pirate
WHERE: Magnetic Theatre,
WHEN: Through Sunday, Aug. 14, with performances Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 1 and 4 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. $12-$23