SALT LAKE CITY— Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC) has been transformed by a magic that only young ones seem to possess. As a season ticket holder, I’ve loved SLAC’s productions for years. However, I found myself giddy with a new kind of excitement as I waited for How I Became a Pirate to begin. It seems that childlike wonder and joy are fairly contagious. With holiday music playing in the house and little humans (some dressed as pirates) chattering and wiggling with eagerness, I found myself entertained just surrounded by their delight.
How I Became a Pirate is based off the popular children’s picture book of the same name. Adapted for the musical stage by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, and under the expert direction of Penelope Caywood, this magical musical adventure comes to life.
Our adventure begins simply enough with the entire audience standing to get the wiggles out. As the lights dim, we meet Jeremy Jacob (Michael Tao), who is busy playing in the sandy beach near his home and discovers that a group of pirates are about to dock on shore. Despite his attempts to warn his parents, they are distracted and tell him to wear sunblock and, when he points out the pirate’s song, they advise him that it is his iPod. The pirates, who are still off shore (and off stage) sing “Ho, Ho, Ho, and a bottle of sunblock” and “Hey, Ho, download some tunes.” Whether you’re a parent being reminded of how you sound to your children, or an adult with fond memories of childhood frustration at your parents nagging, the first scene transports us back to simpler times and greater imaginations.
With an amazing scene change, the entire beach collapses into a barrel and we are taken to sea with our rough and tumble group of pirates. As Jeremy Jacob learns the pirate ways, we find out how Captain Braid Beard (J. Michael Bailey) became a pirate. He comes from several generations of piracy – all the way back to his great, great, grandfather, who actually was an accountant but wanted to be a pirate.
Along the way, we get a lesson from the Pirate Thesaurus on how to talk like a pirate that is ladled with words that are (ironically) opposite from pirate slang. “Be a bit fanatical about the grammatical way to speak… With your new phraseology, you’ll never make apology… If you use pirate linguistics, you’ll never sweat the logistics.” In addition, we get a soccer lesson that teaches us that rules aren’t so bad and learn that we can find more information about how to become a pirate at WWW (dot) Pirates (dot) Aarrgh! Whatever the song or lesson, in the end we are reminded that there’s no place quite like the security of home.
During our adventure, we get to know a slew of characters: Max (Shannon Musgrave), who has a fake bird she believes is real; Sharktooth (Austin Archer), who is the 2nd most feared pirate, but is really just a sensitive dude; Swill (Alexis Baigue), the know it all (and my favorite); and Pierre (Randall Eames)—the chef with a flair from France. I loved Tao as Jeremy and thought this youthfulness and excitement was perfect for a youngster on this kind of adventure. I especially liked his “Soccer by the Rules” number. Baigue was energetic and always enjoyable to watch. When the pirates came out to the audience, Baigue happened to be the one that came right up to our row and started talking, and the children around me just loved him! My 10-year old co-reviewer was quite taken with Sharktooth. The actors were fun, animated and simply a joy to watch.
While this show is geared towards our younger theatergoers, it has plenty of humor for audiences of all ages. And despite my best attempts, I would love a copy of the soundtrack—which doesn’t seem to be available. If anyone knows differently, please let me know. With a runtime of only an hour, it’s able to catch and hold the attention of even the youngest of theatergoers. “With a glint in the eye and a smiles that’s sly,” How I Became a Pirate is a sea-worthy adventure for all audience mates and a must for those seeking holiday theater traditions.