Lucy Austin doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea about Haldane High School’s musical this weekend.
Yes, “Pirates of Penzance” is a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.
“I think the word ‘operetta’ scares people, but it’s really just a fun, hilarious, ridiculous show. When people hear ‘operetta,’ they think ‘Oh, serious music!’ But this is the least serious show that exists.”
Considering the musical’s abundance of pirates, giggling girls, nursemaids who don’t hear well, and leap-day birthday boys, Austin (inset at right) may be onto something.
Director Martha Mechalackos has double-cast the show, meaning the principal roles are shared between actors. When not on as Mabel, Austin becomes a member of the ensemble and fellow junior Bella Convertino plays Mabel. Likewise with Pirate Kings Corydon Zouzias and Ronan Wood-Gallagher, Major Generals John Swartzwelder and David DeCaro and Frederics Peter Close and Jefemy Roffman.
If that makes things confusing, it doesn’t show in rehearsal, where the teens are fully committed to the text, no matter how foreign the operetta penned in 1878 may seem in 2015.
“The lyrics are so fast and the rhythm is so complicated,” Austin said. “And the lyrics are out of date, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s very fun to do it, but the words don’t come naturally. You have to work hard to memorize your lines and your songs. They’re not words you use.”
Staging Gilbert & Sullivan enters the cast into a group whose members know the songs by heart. When someone says “Stay Frederic Stay,” Gilbert & Sullivan fans know exactly the lines and context for that song, like a Sondheim fan will know exactly what is meant by “Children Will Listen.”
Austin is a dancer, but “Penzance” isn’t really a dance show.
“Last year, ‘Anything Goes’ was a real dance show, a big project. This year, there’s one real dance, more gestures.”
“I feel like people have thought of Mabel as a demure sort of girl, sweet, but I looked through the script and didn’t see anything that said she had to be. My version of Mabel is a bit more sassy. The plot dictates that she’s somebody who goes out and gets what she wants. She marches in and decides she’s going to be in love with Frederic.”
She also faces off with anyone who gets in her whether, whether a Pirate King or anyone else.
“Mabel’s a bit of a maverick,” Austin said.
Austin said the operetta (there’s that word again) is a good fit in Cold Spring, where she believes there’s “a sensitivity to this kind of this.” After all, Kevin Kline, the 1983 movie’s Pirate King, has ties to Garrison, so there’s that.
“Pirates of Penzance,” 7 p.m., March 13; 2 and 7 p.m., March 14; 2 p.m., March 15; $15, $8 seniors and students; seniors free with Haldane gold card; 845-265-9254, ext. 111.
Here’s the Running Lines video I shot at Haldane. Enjoy!