CCHS students will perform the operetta in May

by: JASON CHANEY - The cast of 'The Pirates of Penzance' rehearse on Friday afternoon as drama instructor Anita Hoffman (BOTTOM LEFT) directs the action.

"For me, it has probably been the biggest production that we have done so far," said Crook County High School drama student Jayana Hinkle.

"Most of the jokes in here, you can really sell it if you do a certain physical motion," added fellow actor Ethan Broughton. "It really depends on how into the character you get."

Next month, Crook County High School singers and actors will present community members with their rendition of "The Pirates of Penzance." The performance will span three days and showcase more than three months of preparation.

"It is an operetta," said drama instructor Anita Hoffman. "There is some spoken word to it, but not all of it is spoken and not all of it is sung."

This marks the third operetta performed by CCHS students in the past six years, but this particular show has stretched the skills of its 35 cast members.

"They have not done an operetta and when we previewed it, one of our first rehearsals was to watch a version of it," Hoffman explained. "They were a bit intimidated by the level of music. It's pitched pretty high. They were worried if they would have the talent to put it together."

‘"The Pirates of Penzance" was written in 1879 and performed for the first time in 1880. It opens with the 21st birthday of Frederic, an indentured pirate.

"Which was an accident because he should have been a pilot," Hoffman said. "But his nanny, Ruth, was forgetful - stupid - and she apprenticed him to the wrong group."

Frederic, in anticipation of his apprenticeship concluding, is ready to return to a life of normal citizenship. That idea is later thwarted as the Pirates of Penzance discover that his contract applies to the number of birthdays and not years of life.

"Since he was born on Leap Year (Day), he is not 21, he is actually five and a quarter," Hoffman said.

Meanwhile, the pirates meet the daughters of General Stanley and make plans to marry them. This later leads to a showdown with the police, who must proceed without the leadership of Frederic. The pirates consequently prevail, but then the police persuade them to do the right thing and surrender as an appeal to Queen Victoria.

"The pirates are British and they love their queen," Hoffman said.

Audience members should not only anticipate a lot of song and dance, but a steady dose of humor as well.

"It is a full-blown comedy," Hoffman remarked. "It is very broad humor - bad jokes, silly puns. It's very witty. It's kind of campy, and it's definitely family-friendly."

However, for that comedy to come through, the students had to put in the time to learn how to generate the laughs the script is meant to elicit.

Along with the script, the actors were armed with two video discs that provide examples of the performance.

"What I usually do is when I have free time, I put on one of the discs and I read through with my book," Broughton said.

For Hinkle, reading the script was not enough. She had to figure out the comedy within the words and do her best to play it out.

"That's what acting is," she said. "When the audience doesn't know what's going on, it's your job to make sure they know what's going on."

Add in the complex music and lyrics, and the actors have their work cut out for them.

"It's definitely a harder musical," Hinkle said, "but it's really fun once you get into it."

The Pirates of Penzance will be performed in the Crook County High School auditorium Thursday-Saturday, May 8-10.

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