Smoky Mountain High School’s Musical Theatre Department performed the classic musical “The Pirates of Penzance”by Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert on May 17 – 19 in Western Carolina University’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.
The show is about a boy named Frederic, played by Galen Martin, who is accidentally made to be an indentured servant to a band of pirates, all of whom are hiding the fact that they are noblemen. At the start of the show, he turns 21, is freed from his servitude and vows to have all the Pirates of Penzance arrested for their actions as pirates, despite the fact that they became his family.
After leaving the pirates, he comes upon a group of daughters. Having never seen a woman other than Ruth, played by Maggie Deweese, his childhood maid, he falls deeply in love with Mabel, played by Rachel Upchurch. The pirates find Frederic with the daughters and vow to marry them all, but their father, Major General, as performed by Erik Meyers, stops them. He lies to the Pirates of Penzance about being an orphan, the very thing which plays upon the pirates’ goodwill. The second act of the musical is a story of revenge, love and a bit of a paradox regarding Fredric’s leap year birth date.
The show ventured into “meta,” acknowledging the audience and the orchestra, and it worked with the humor of the show. In fact, the daughters were hilarious and fantastic during Frederic and Mabel’s numbers, stealing the show. The characters lived in the music, and they played awareness off of everything that happened during the show, which was delightful to watch.
Smoky Mountain High School boasts a large and highly talented group of performers. They are not only talented, though; they are also highly committed. To have a group as large as they had, fully devoted is a miracle – and it did nothing but make the show utterly astounding.
Their technical crew is also flabbergasting as the sets were fantastically details. Murphy Dillow, a WCU student employee in Luther Jones’s theatre tech shop, was impressed by their sets, especially having a two-story set in a high school production that wasn’t William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The entire production was filled to the brim with effort, and it was not lost on the audience.
There were a few standout performers, who one can only hope will join Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen.
Zechariah Carter, who played the Pirate King, reminded me a lot of our recent WCU alumni Joseph Callahan, who was the blocking director and choreographer for the musical. Deweese’s Ruth, Myers’s Major General and Skyler Tapley’s Sergeant were also fantastic. Their voices were strong and beautiful, and they lost themselves in their roles, which is all you can ask of an actor. With the exception of Myers, those standout performers are all juniors at the high school. If you are given the chance to see them in a Smoky Mountain High School production again, take the opportunity.