FRIDAY 5 (+1): Chris McLaurin and Mara Smotherman of PIRATES OF PENZANCE
Chris McLaurin makes his directing debut with Center for the Arts' production of Gilbert and Sullivan's iconic The Pirates of Penzance, opening tonight in Murfreesboro and continuing its run through August 27. With a story filled with tenderhearted pirates, a modern Major-General, a bevy of Victorian maidens and a bunch of bumbling British bobbies, Pirates promises audiences a raucously good time set to a memorable score that is among the best to be found in musical theater.
Chris McLaurin and one of his cast members, Mara Bloomfield Smotherman (who will be seen later this season in The Larry Keeton Theatre's production of South Pacific) take on our list of six questions for this latest version of Friday 5 (+1), offering insight into what makes them tick, what brought them to the theater in the first place and to suggest why you won't want to miss their show.
Our advice? Press on, gentle readers, and allow yourself to be elucidated, then quickly call the Center for the Arts and secure your tickets - they are moving fast, we are told.
Mara Bloomfield Smotherman (Kate)
What was your first "live, onstage" taste of theater? The first musical I ever saw was Cats. I was four years old and terrified. The cat costumes gave me the creeps, and I was worried the actors' eyes would glow like the cat eyes on the programs. I fell in love with "Memory," so all creepiness was forgiven. My first on-stage experience was a school talent show in kindergarten. I sang "Desperate for a Dog" by the Olsen Twins with my neighbor. We were pretty darn adorable.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I say "toi toi toi" to my castmates and take way too many in-costume pictures.
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? I managed to snag the leading role of the Little Red Hen in a first grade play. I took my role very seriously. I brought a broom to school to use during a song about cleaning and being underappreciated. At the start of the school day, I managed to get the broom confiscated. Unfortunately, my teacher forgot to return it to me in time for my song. I improvised and scrubbed the floor, but those tears of frustration were real (probably the best performance I've ever done, to be honest.)
What's your dream role? Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.
Why should people come see PIRATES OF PENZANCE? 1. It's silly fun for the whole family. 2. Pirates. 3. The cast is spectacularly talented. 4. The costumes are colorful and gorgeous. 5. I'm convinced that our pirate king, Ryan Leyhue, is a real-life pirate. 6. You can get a taste of opera AND understand all the words! 7. Did I mention there are pirates?
Chris McLaurin (director)
What was your first "live, onstage" taste of theater? It was about seven years ago at the Arts Center of Cannon County. In addition to being my first time on stage, I had the opportunity to be on stage with my wife, my son and my daughter. We were in Shenandoah together where I played Mr. Carol. The very first show I dropped my one key line. The cast ribbed me about it the whole run. To this day I will never forget the word "confiscate."
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? It's weird. I, unfortunately, have several, but my favorite is to find a quiet spot where I stand facing a wall, my face just inches from the wall. I stand very still and visualize the first five or ten minutes that I am on stage. If I can get that first five or ten minutes out, I know it will be a great show.
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? In A Little Murder Never Hurt Anyone, I was portraying Detective Plotnik. In the middle of act two, I am dressed in a really bad "Charly Chan" disguise complete with the horrible Fu Manchu style stick on mustache. As a part of the scene, Donald, the idiot boyfriend, is supposed to slap me to awaken me from my drug-induced state (I had been shot with a blow dart earlier in the scene). One night a slightly overzealous Donald slapped me so hard the mustache flew off my face and onto the stage. We both simply lost it. It turned into one of those types of moments from The Carol Burnett Show where Harvey Korman and Tim Conway would get tickled at each other and neither could keep it together. We almost pulled it together and then Donald decided to pick up the cheesy mustache and press it back on my lip. It was at that point that it truly fell apart but we did finally find a way to put the story line back on track.
What's your dream role? Tevye. My father had the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof when I was a child. It seemed like a Saturday tradition that he would play it. I think I had every song memorized before I was 10. Funny that it took me 35 years before I actually got onstage!
Who's your theatrical crush? My wife Lisa. Last year for my birthday, she surprised me by getting up at a cabaret at the Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro and singing "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" to me in front of all of our friends. I'll never watch Grease again without thinking about that moment.
Why should people come see PIRATES OF PENZANCE? The easy answer is that it is just a lot of fun and besides, how often do you get to see a comic opera? The show is full of swashbuckling pirates, whimsical lovely daughters, keystone-cop styled Police and of course The Modern Major General. The show is full of laughs, plot twists, wonderful songs, all with a sense of Duty.
About the show Murfreesboro's Center for the Arts presents Gilbert and Sullivan's classic The Pirates of Penzance August 11-27, featuring a story filled with tenderhearted pirates, a modern Major-General, a bevy of Victorian maidens and a bunch of bumbling British bobbies.
The cast of the production will lead audiences through the adventures of Frederic, who was mistakenly apprenticed as a young boy, to a band of sentimental pirates. Frederic, now 21, falls head-over-heels for the Major-General's daughter Mabel, and swears off the pirate life forever but an absurd leap year snag threatens to keep him apprenticed to piracy for life.
"This production has been a great experience and a wonderful journey," says first-time director at The Center, Chris McLaurin. "We hope to surprise and delight you with a dazzling array of talents."
Supertitles (transcribed lyrics projected onto a screen) will be used for this production because of the operatic style of music. Many of the are cast are trained opera performers and have impressive vocal ranges that will wow the audience. McLaurin describes it as "a funny farce of an operetta."
Performances run Friday through Sunday, August 11-27. General admission tickets are $15.00 for adults, $13.00 for seniors, students and military, and $11.00 for children. Groups of 10 or more receive a $2.00 discount per ticket. Tickets are available by visiting www.boroarts.org or calling The Center's box office at (615) 904-2787. Center for the Arts is located at 110 W. College Street in Murfreesboro.