FORT WORTH The Casa Mañana Children’s Theatre production of How I Became a Pirate, which opened Friday, sets sail on a tuneful romp on the not-so-high seas that impresses on every level.
This gentle musical by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman tells the story of Jeremy Jacob (Stephen Newton), who passes the time playing soccer and enjoying the beach near his seashore home. One day, while engaged in the latter pursuit, Jeremy spots a pirate ship on the horizon. The crew, which is to pirating what the Keystone Kops were to law enforcement, comes ashore and enlists Jeremy to help find a place to bury a treasure chest — setting off a series of booty jokes.
After that, not much happens at all. Jeremy and the pirates just sail around for a while before landing back where they came from to hide the loot in Jeremy’s back yard.
But while the plot is not very loaded, the score is. The show is awash in delightful songs that tell of the pirates’ ways.
Leading this band of the most nonthreatening criminals you have ever seen (their greatest offense as a group is poor dental hygiene) is Braid Beard (Greg Dulcie). This veteran actor has done outstanding work for these children’s shows at Casa for years, but he has seldom had a role where he seems to be having more fun than he does here as the dimwitted captain.
All his mates do an equally good job with their singing, dancing and acting, most notably Sharktooth (Jonathan Bragg). He only has one number, but it is so superbly sung that it alone more than covers your price of admission.
Tammy Spencer’s costumes are spot on, as they so often are in these productions. Colt Frank’s scenic design is sleek, beautiful and practical.
Director Noah Putterman, the director of education at Casa, does a wonderful job of bringing all these elements together.
That being said, I had some problems with the production and the script. I thought Frank’s set should be messier and busier. Indeed, I thought the whole show needed to be messier and sillier than it is (poop deck jokes notwithstanding).
Plus, it desperately needs a villain. There is no dramatic tension at all. Jeremy just trades a few songs with the pirates and then goes to soccer practice.
But young patrons attending the Friday morning, school-group performance seen for this review were totally engaged by this show, but not in the way they usually are.
At most of these presentations, the kids are so excited that they are bouncing in their seats with glee and are highly audible in their appreciation. With this show, they were just as involved without being as demonstrative about it. The lesson there is that audiences of all ages apparently know quality when they see it.