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Review: STEDE BONNET: A F*CKING PIRATE MUSICAL Steals the Show with Silliness and Sorrow

"Prepare for piracy, boys!" STEDE BONNET: A F*CKING PIRATE MUSICAL is sailing through the new Theatre Three April 11-May 1.

Review: STEDE BONNET: A F*CKING PIRATE MUSICAL Steals the Show with Silliness and Sorrow

Are you ready kids pirate-loving adults? It's time to take a journey out to sea, and not in the delightful, fantastical way you may be used to. Imagine meeting someone who is deeply depressed, constantly striving for fulfillment, acting without thinking, and doing all of this while being ridiculously hysterical-that's Steve-oops-Stede Bonnet. Theatre Three is back with a new musical, but this isn't just any musical-it's Stede Bonnet: A F*cking Pirate Musical!

Walking into the new Theatre Three was magical. The lobby was buzzing with theatre-goers catching up and taking photos. I could've closed my eyes and felt the energy in the room; everyone was ready for Theatre Three's official home-stage return, especially when they are putting on a show labeled as "A F*cking Pirate Musical." I mean, come on, who doesn't want to see a show with that descriptor in the title?

Prior to the show, Theatre Three's Artistic Director, Jeffrey Schmidt, graciously invited us to get lost in the world of this musical, drowning out all other worries. I truly believe everyone in the theatre accepted this invitation because all throughout the night the audience was clapping, cheering, gasping (especially during the impressive fighting scenes choreographed by David Saldivar), aw-ing, and most of all, laughing.

This theatre is quite intimate, making it feel like you are immersed in the set. The floor was painted with different varieties of blues, and the wood makings of a ship sat center stage. Around the theatre were other aspects of the set that were skillfully used throughout the performance-Stede's bedroom and a ship deck, both elevated above the main stage. At first I was unsure how all of these dispersed spaces would be used effectively, but my questioning mind was silenced by the cast's beautiful use of the entire set throughout the evening. I immediately noticed the musicians' visibility on the elevated stage above Stede's bedroom. Danny Anchondo Jr., Kat Glaze, Michael Dill, and Randy Linberg were stellar at producing instrumentals that went from pirate ship, to emotional ballad, to cabaret club, to 80's exercise soundtrack. Their variety in style was impressive, and their personalities shone through their sounds and facial expressions. I often found myself looking over at Danny Anchondo Jr. in anticipation of his reaction to what was going on in the show; he was fun to watch! We were also briefly blessed by a Kat Glaze solo. She was amazing, and the audience was clearly in awe of her skill. These musicians added a layer to the show that was both entertaining and joyful.

The first musical number of the performance, "If I Could Rewrite My Story," conveyed the underlying theme of the musical while bluntly communicating its tone. We immediately knew we were about to witness the story of a sad, hopeless man, but the story would be told through self-deprecating, profane, absolutely hilarious comedy. There were moments in the performance that felt deep and dark, like the loss of loved ones, acknowledgment of how much "grief sucks," and the realization that a friend isn't who they say they are. In one moment, Stede Bonnet states, "I'm just sad," contrasted by clown-like music playing in the background. It was clear right from the beginning that this performance would expose us to emotional highs and lows, make us laugh at things we maybe shouldn't, and allow us to escape our realities for an evening. To make this possible, the more troubling topics within the script were paired with upbeat musical numbers (courtesy of Composer Clint Gilbert), hilariously timed profanity, and impeccable, crowd-rousing acting.

Review: STEDE BONNET: A F*CKING PIRATE MUSICAL Steals the Show with Silliness and Sorrow
Parker Gray as Stede Bonnet

The infamous Stede Bonnet, played by an animated Parker Gray, was the energy of the show. Shrieking, dancing, squirming, and reading (Shocking, I know.) his way through the performance, all eyes were constantly on him. Gray did an impressive job playing this unique character. He was absolutely hilarious, and in the moments of emotional vulnerability, Gray did extremely well bringing the audience down to a dark place before immediately bringing us back up with a silly comment or failed attempt at being helpful on the ship. Although Stede Bonnet's name is in the title, his counterparts were just as entertaining and essential to the story.

Review: STEDE BONNET: A F*CKING PIRATE MUSICAL Steals the Show with Silliness and Sorrow
Rachel Nicole Poole as Elsie

Another character who found herself in a troubled situation was Elsie, beautifully played by Rachel Nicole Poole. Elsie was possibly the only inspiring character in this entire musical. Poole played her character well, transforming from barkeep to pirate, all the while remaining a broken-hearted woman searching for her sister. Her voice was soothing yet fiery, and each time she took the stage, especially in the moments where time seemed to stand still, the audience was captivated by her emotion. This is not to say that Elsie was strictly a serious character; she was very funny, too. I believe she stood out as such a powerful woman because, well, you have to think pretty hard to find the redeemable qualities of the other characters. Ha!

Review: STEDE BONNET: A F*CKING PIRATE MUSICAL Steals the Show with Silliness and Sorrow
Laura Lyman Payne as Blackbeard

Of course when you go to a "F*cking Pirate Musical" you expect to meet some pirates, and these pirates were no joke, most notably Laura Lyman Payne's frightening character, Blackbeard. This character initially seemed to talk more about terrorizing others than actually doing it, but within moments he was ordering his shipmates to burn down a building. So, I guess I'm not the best judge of character. Payne impressively embodied this vicious, violent pirate while also showcasing her captivating voice. Blackbeard was a necessary character, serving as the antagonist to both Stede Bonnet, although Bonnet probably could've counted as his own antagonist, and Elsie.

Blackbeard's right-hand-man, or so Blackbeard thought, was Israel Hands, performed by Christopher Llewyn Ramirez. This character was incredibly nuanced; he found himself growing and changing over the course of the musical. Ramirez did a beautiful job helping the audience understand Hands's transformations from lowly pirate, to friend, to grieving lover. His performance added to the success of the underlying themes of unhappiness and loss. Then, there were the other pirates, who were there to make us laugh, and oh boy did they deliver. Pirate 1, goofily played by Marti Etheridge, hobbled around while making drunken, cheeky comments to the barkeep. Ethridge's facial expressions were extremely funny. Pirate 2, embodied suspiciously too well by Jovane Caamaño, was the most foolish pirate. Caamaño's choreographed confusion was perfectly convincing, and I honestly think Pirate 2 might have been less capable than Bonnet himself. Lastly, but certainly not least, was Pirate 3, played by Cherish Love Robinson. When it was time for Pirate 3 to dance, Robinson knew exactly what to do to make the audience cackle. I am still chuckling to myself about her giving the crowd a thumbs up while swaying back and forth-so funny! Etheridge, Caamaño, and Robinson also found themselves in other supporting roles throughout the performance, and I was impressed with how seamlessly they were able to transform from one character to another.

Review: STEDE BONNET: A F*CKING PIRATE MUSICAL Steals the Show with Silliness and Sorrow
Marti Etheridge as Pirate 1

Each and every character was necessary to the audience's understanding of the tale, and all actors played their parts extremely well, but there was one thing the cast did that was unforgettable-involved the audience. There were multiple times when characters interacted with us. At one point, Stede Bonnet himself tapped me on the shoulder and, referencing his newfound passion for piracy, said, "I think I'm really getting the hang of this!" It felt like I was part of the action. I was close enough to be tapped on the shoulder by the worst pirate of all time. It was awesome! There were other times when the audience was involved in the performance, like when Bonnet once called back to an audience member that said "oh no," and when Blackbeard conceitedly soaked in all of the audience's applause. These small but impactful moments of feeling included made the narrative come alive.

This show is one of a kind, and it couldn't have been made possible without playwright Nicole Neely's creative mind. Her novel ideas combined with the genius of Director/Choreographer Danielle Georgiou, Ph.D. and Composer Clint Gilbert made this naughty, nautical musical successful. These three minds dreamt up and realized a performance worthy of being Theatre Three's big return home. All of us showed up to see a musical, but instead we were invited into a new world and included in an experience. We were part of this strange, twisted tale of sadness, loss, despair, and occasionally a glimmer of hope. In fact, at the end of the musical, I was grasping for that little sliver of hope until a little birdie abruptly reminded us that Stede Bonnet is a "piece of sh*t," which is exactly why you should go see him in action. Buy a ticket to Stede Bonnet: A F*cking Pirate Musical to get lost in a sea of questionable morals and to learn about the worst pirate who ever lived. You won't regret it.

At the new Theatre Three April 11-May 1. Purchase tickets through the Theatre Three website. Show contains rough language. To learn more about the basis of the show, read the Stede Bonnet Dramaturgy packet written by Dante Flores. Run time: approximately two hours with intermission.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Schmidt

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