OGDEN — Broadway on the Side is a new production company in Ogden with big goals and dreams. The company is currently housed in a strip mall space converted into a black box raised stage with stand mics, but they aspire to someday build a professional arts center in Weber County. This dream arts center will not only be a professional performance space, but offer classes in a multitude of art mediums. To start making this dream a reality, the company is putting on pieces which highlight the current performer’s vocal abilities. Pirates…on the Side is a cabaret-style production themed around all things pirate. The songs emphasize the talents of the individual performers and offers an enjoyable night supporting a burgeoning company.
Most of the songs are solos and well suited to each performer’s strengths. Harriett Bauer has a strong belt she utilizes in “Where’s My Dad?” and “That’s My Dad?” as well as a gender-bending Pirate King for the song “Oh, Better Far to Live and Die (I am a Pirate King)” from The Pirates of Penzance. Transposing the song from baritone to mezzo-soprano works really well and gave Bauer lots of space to inhabit the Pirate King role.
Lauralye Anderson only has one solo song, but it was one of the best songs on the night. “Woman” from The Pirate Queen is not a song I am familiar with, yet Anderson’s performance told a life-long story in one number. Her pipes impressed me with their power. In a stark contrast to Anderson’s singing style is Elizabeth Jensen’s, who also gave a stand-out performance. Jensen’s sultry voice is reminiscent of a by-gone era. Her rendition of “The Skye Boat Song” enchants the audience and transports the mind to the Scottish Highlands with bagpipes ringing softly across the moors. Her other solo transported me—this time to the 1960s with the song “Beyond the Sea (‘La Mer’)” by Bobby Darin and Charles Trenet. Again, transposing from a traditional male solo to fit into Jensen’s range was a natural fit and her smoky voice is enchanting.
Jackie Barrett offers two starkly different performances. The first is “Goodbye, My Love” from Ragtime, which showcased her vibrato and vocal inflections. The story of the song is moving, and Barrett’s expressive eyes narrated the pain of the tale. In contrast to this tale of sadness, Barrett later sings “The Last Saskatchewan Pirate” by The Arrogant Worms while accompanying her song on the ukulele. I laughed at the modern Canadian sea shanty’s tale of plundering grain from unsuspecting citizens of Regina, at least until winter comes.
James Booth performs two songs from The Pirates of Penzance, the superior song being “The Major General’s Song,” where he is goofy and fills the instrumental portions of the song with a funny little jig. This song is notoriously difficult to properly enunciate, and Booth could improve his diction in some parts, but overall it is funny and well sung. Brenden Rogers rounds out the cast for the night and gives off Captain Jack Sparrow energy on his number “Hoist the Colours” from The Pirates of the Caribbean. There were some muddled lines from Rogers in several songs, but he did not break and has a nice baritone voice.
Director Megan Worthen Nelson has a strong vision as director and is also part of the cast, offering an enjoyable original composition song she wrote called “Seventh (The Rain Song).” It has a blues swing and chord progression. I was tapping my toes along to the tune as she bared her creative soul by sharing this original number. The cabaret style of the show allows each performer to pick numbers that showcase their individual vocal prowess, but the cast does blend and harmonize beautifully together in the ensemble numbers. “The Wellerman,” in particular, added harmonies to the arrangement that made it fresh and exciting.
On opening night, the theater had only a handful of patrons present, and I think this show deserves a bigger audience. I admire the cast’s pioneering spirit to embark on a voyage which showcases their strengths and gives the audience a glimpse of good things to come. Pirates . . . on the Side is family-friendly production and is a great way for patrons to support local artists by coming to the show and helping these seafaring performers reach their lofty dreams.