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‘Rollicking band of pirates we’

Odeum Theatre stages Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance at the ACT
( Cayla Lynn

This year, Poppy Welsh will trying for a more prominent place on stage.

Perhaps she’ll be one of General Stanley’s daughters, a pirate maid or a police constable dressed in blue.

“I’ve played a lot of different roles in school,” says 12-year-old Welsh, who started a summer musical theatre workshop run by Odeum Theatre at the ACT in Maple Ridge this week and which will culminate in a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance on Saturday.

“I think I’m ready for a bigger part.”

Welsh and 25 other young thespians have 10 days to master  comic opera about Frederic, the pirate apprentice, who is indentured to the sea-faring scoundrels until his 21st birthday.

The actors get their scripts on Day 1, immerse themselves into learning a range of parts and need to know every note, rhythm and word by Day 3.

The cast, costumes, props and staging are only introduced – on Day 5.

“We only give them 10 days, but what we produce is anything but a mediocre performance,” says artistic director Rayne Beveridge, who is sharing duties with Clarke Schaufele, from the University of Indiana, and Cari Russell, an actor and theatre instructor from Calgary, Alberta.

Even parents are surprised their children were capable of staging an entire operetta in little more than a week.

Ian McDonnell, whose son Trevor is enrolled in the workshop for the third year, admits he wasn’t expecting much when he watched last year’s performance of another Gilbert and Sullivan classic H.M.S Pinafore.

“After all how good could it be after just a week to get ready?,” he says.

“I was expecting it to be like a school Christmas pageant, where you are happy to see your own child perform for five minutes and then groaning through the rest. To my surprise and the director’s credit, the show was fantastic. The kids were well-prepared and enthusiastic.  I really enjoyed it, and my son did too.”

• Pirates of Penzance plays the ACT on Saturday, July 16 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Tickets are available at the Bergthorson Academy of Musical Arts (604-467 6613) or at the ACT in Maple Ridge.