Production of 'The Pirates of Penzance' ready to open despite disruptions

Outdoor musical will open month-long run on Thursday, July 7 at Lions Wilderness Park Amphtheater

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Gilbert and Sullivan operetta is being presented by the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company.
  • Tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for students, seniors and members of the military.
  • Visit fmtn.org or call 505-599-1148.

FARMINGTON − Randy West has spent much of his career producing outdoor summer musicals, so he knows as well as anyone the kind of havoc that the weather can play on rehearsal and performance schedules.

But for some of the members of the cast of his latest production, the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company presentation of "The Pirates of Penzance" that opens this week, it's a new experience.

"I keep telling the cast, 'When you do outdoor theater, God gets a vote,'" West said, explaining how a series of monsoon storms over the past two weeks have disrupted preparations for the play's opening. "It's been complicated."

Most of the seasonal summer rainstorms that have marched through San Juan County on a steady basis since late June have not been timed to wipe out the rehearsals that feature actors, but they have kept West and his technical crew from being able to work on the timing of the show's considerable technical aspects − lighting, sound, etc.

West said those technical elements are so advanced it takes an hour each night just to run through a series of checks and make sure everything is working the way it should. Those elements include a sound system for a seven-piece band and 28 microphones for actors.

Matt Aaron portrays the Pirate King in the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "The Pirates of Penzance" opening Thursday, July 7 at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater in Farmington.

"It's just a lot," he said. "I'm totally convinced we'll get there, but we won't get there with anything to spare. We'll literally have used every moment God has allowed us to rehearse these last two and a half weeks."

The iconic Gilbert and Sullivan play is so elaborate that West said it is more accurately described as an operetta than a musical, with more than two hours of sung material, never mind the dialog. And the Four Corners Musical Theater Company production doesn't skimp on production values, with a swashbuckling fight scene that involves essentially the entire cast featuring real swords and billy clubs.

"It's a wonderful moment in the show I'm glad we fought to preserve," he said.

The sets are a treat unto themselves, West promised, noting that the Mediterranean-style taverna that is part of the permanent set up at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater has been converted into a castle for the show. There's also a beach, a dock, a graveyard and a turntable.

The Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "The Pirates of Penzance" opens this weekend and continues throughout July at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater in Farmington.

But the real highlight, West said, is a full-scale, brightly painted pirate ship, complete with a mast that lead actor Matt Aaron will clamber up during a climactic scene, along with two cannons that will fire at different points in the show.

All of those elements will combine for a show that is stunning both visually and artistically, West said.

"It makes it really visually engaging," he said. "There's so much going on."

It's been difficult to manage some of those elements because of the recent weather disruptions, but West would rather have those rainouts occurring now rather than during the run of the show itself. He said last year's outdoor production, "Mama Mia!," was rained out three times during its three-week run, so he was pleased to note that the forecast calls for drier weather for the rest of this month.

A full-scale pirate ship, complete with two cannons, is one of the highlights of the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "The Pirates of Penzance."

West acknowledged that some parts of the show could have been scaled back after the weather put rehearsals behind schedule. But the sizable amphitheater setting offers West and his actors the chance to do something on a grand scale once a year, so giving up on some of those ideas wasn't really an option, he said, especially for a show that involves as much physicality and slapstick humor as this one does.

"We do this one show for a whole month, so it's really important to us to get it right," he said. "I think for anybody who already has a warm and fuzzy spot for Sandstone Theater, this show will only enhance that feeling."

"The Pirates of Penzance" will be presented at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 7, through Sunday, July 10, at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater, 5800 College Blvd. in Farmington. The show continues throughout July. Tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for students, seniors and members of the military. Visit fmtn.org or call 505-599-1148.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.