Pirates of Pinzance

From left, Brandon Chism stands his ground against maidens Kristina Tanner, Lisa Mellick, Dani Christopherson, Hannah Salisbury and Hayden Gibb.

Pirates, romance and comedy fill the stage at the Buena Vista High School’s Flex Commons during High Country Fine Arts Association’s all-adult production “The Pirates of Penzance.”

The production will take the stage at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday.

The comic opera, made famous by Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert, focuses on Frederic, who has just completed his 21st year of apprenticeship with a band of pirates and is looking to court the woman with whom he has just fallen in love: Mabel, the daughter of Maj.-Gen. Stanley. Things get complicated, however, when the pirates decide to marry Mabel’s sisters, much to their father’s dismay, and Frederic discovers his birthday was actually on Feb. 29.

“According to his birthday, he’s actually only 5 years old,” said Brandon Chism, playing Frederic. “He can’t leave them until he’s 21, decades later. That’s some of the irony and comedy with this.”

Chism was very involved in theater during his high school and college years, but not as often since then. He was approached months ago by BVHS choir and drama teacher Tanner Oharah about participating in this production, and he was all too happy to join in.

Frederic is a tenor role, and Chism was trained as a tenor in college but now sings more baritone. “It’s a little bit of stretch for me, but I really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, a lot of memorization, which I haven’t done in a long time. That’s been kind of the biggest work for me.”

“It’s a lot more low brow than classical opera,” said director Erin Buterbaugh. “It’s more singable, there’s a little bit more humor, the songs are a little bit more tuneful. It’s kind of the early American musical, and a lot of the songs they wrote for their operettas were then popular songs in sheet music.”

Buterbaugh has choreographed the Buena Vista High School productions for the past seven or eight years. While she was aware of HCFAA beforehand, this is her first time taking part in a non-high school theater production.

“I’m so excited. I love this show,” she said. “When I was little, my dad was in charge of renting the movie for movie night and he came home with a VHS copy of the film version with Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt … We loved it. It’s just hilarious and the music is fabulous and the local talent that’s come out for it is just a really strong cast.”

With a cast of 16, this musical is the first adult production HCFAA has put on in some time.

“It’s glorious. I think it’s wonderful,” says Jim Oliver, playing Stanley. “We have this beautiful space. Before, we didn’t have the high school space, and we didn’t want to work in the old high school because the space was too small.”

Oliver has been involved with HCFAA since he moved to Buena Vista in 1997. The association was working on the musical “Brigadoon” at the time, and Oliver agreed to help out.

“I was on the board for a while,” he said. “It was hard to organize auditions and hard to organize enough people to do it. They had traditionally done big shows with 40 people, and so we were thinking along those lines back then, ‘Oh, we need 40 people to do a show.’”

Finding that many people to act on the stage wasn’t likely to happen at any given time, especially with people also moving on from theater. The association realized it had to give up on doing productions with casts of that size.

“Now we have this space and we have more people than we did before – a whole new crop of people that are really talented,” Oliver said. “Hopefully, they’ll want to do this again and again.”

“For a lot of us that don’t really get to perform as much – some of us directors, some of us in choirs here or there – to do something like this in a full production I think is really special for a lot of us that don’t get to do it anymore,” Chism said.

Even when rehearsals had just begun a week out from the show dates, they were a pretty intensive process. “When your cast is all adults and they’re all professionals and really on their game, you can put a show together pretty quickly,” Buterbaugh said.

Buterbaugh hopes to see support from the show from theater lovers and the community in general. “I think people will be excited to see some faces from their community, maybe they know from other places, from church or school or local sports teams, and see those people in a different role than they’re used to seeing. I think it’ll be really fun for the community and the local arts scene,” she said.

Tickets cost $5-20 and can be purchased from bvhsco.booktix.com or at the door.

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