By AUDREY WELLS
Ahoy! Pirates have come ashore — but not to plunder. These are singing pirates here to entertain your children, and that they do.
Parkland Theatre's latest production, a musical adaptation of the popular children's book with the same title, "How I Became a Pirate," is as vivid as the book's illustrations. Children who know the book will be transported along with the main character to a pirate's world where parents don't bark orders and life's experiences are shared through song. Newcomers to the story will have no trouble adapting to this fantasy world.
The story begins when the protagonist, Jeremy Jacob, a young boy who is free to play on the beach until soccer practice, meets up with some pirates and goes with them on an adventure.
Jeremy is on stage for the entire 60-minute production, so if the actor playing him falters, the whole ship sinks. Easily the youngest cast member, Kyle Klein II as Jeremy keeps this production safely afloat, turning in a water-tight performance. Klein's energy, focus, crisp delivery and clear voice rightly make him the star of the show.
The colorful, varied pirates surrounding Jeremy are a fun bunch. Their costumes designed by Malia Andrus add variety and texture with assorted stripes and dots held together with buckles and sashes. The crew performs 12 cleverly written songs that come swiftly and span a wide assortment of genre, from the rousing shanty "Batten Down the Hatches" to the tender ballad "It's Good to be Home."
David Heckman is at the helm as Captain Braid Beard. David Dillman as Sharktooth the Pirate makes us laugh with "I'm Really Just a Sensitive Guy." Under the fine direction of Kyle A. Thomas, the ensemble works as a unit even as actors explore their distinctive roles.
The terrific set, designed by Bernard Wolff, captures the feel of the children's book while captivating the audience in a three-dimensional world. The opening scene on the beach uses cut-outs and clouds made puffy with cotton. Once the voyage begins, the stage spins and the actors play on a solidly constructed ship with an animated Jolly Roger flying atop.
Keeping it lively, the show concludes with pirates prancing through the audience thrilling the children by singing right to them. Choose an aisle seat to get the full effect.
I also recommend sitting in the center section. I sat on the side and at times the miked sound was so muffled I wondered if I'd fallen off the ship into water. One of the strengths of the script is in the lyrics. Try not to miss them.
Book, music and lyrics of "How I Became a Pirate" are by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman. Their work pairs well with Melinda Long's print book. The Parkland production presents a wonderful opportunity to inspire children to love reading and theater. Accompanying adults will enjoy it, too.
Audrey Wells is a freelance writer from Urbana.
If you go
What: Parkland Theatre presents "How I Became A Pirate," based on the best-selling children's book by Melinda Long; directed by Kyle A. Thomas
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 3-5, 3 p.m. Oct. 6, 7 p.m. Oct. 10 and 11 and 3 and 7 p.m. Oct. 12
Where: Parkland Theatre, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C
Tickets: $14 for adults; $12 for students and senior citizens 55 and older; $8 for youths 12 and younger; $10 each for groups of 15 or more (half-price Oct. 10)
Reservations: http://www.parkland.edu/theatre; 351-2528
More info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Of note: Recommended for ages 4 and up; running time about 1 hour