Considering all the great pirate characters in fiction and in history, it’s no wonder writers are tempted to take on the fantastic genre again and again. It wasn’t any of that famous pirate lore that inspired Richard Cannaday to write The Landlover, however. It was a scene in Hamlet.
The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble was preparing its March 2010 production of Shakespeare’s tragedy when Cannaday noted a reference the Prince makes to having returned to Denmark in the care of pirates.
“I was thinking about what these cutthroats might have thought about this spoiled, bratty, tormented, rich, young prince,” he said. “And it spawned the idea of these pirates at the end of their rope looking for answers in terms of what to do with their lives next.”
This summer’s ensemble collaboration with the community, The Landlover: a Pirate Musical opens on July 21 in previews and continues through July 31.
In the show, a crew of six pirates with an overbearing, over-the-hill captain go ashore on errands and encounter a land-loving, guitar-strumming, hippie-type, easy going anti-pirate played by Cannaday. Ensemble member James Good is the co-director, handling all the scenes in which Cannaday’s character appears. Other participating ensemble members include Cassandra Pisieczko as a barmaid named Daisy, Andrew Hubatsek as The Old Timer and Daniel Roth as Captain John Flotsam.
Cannaday single cast the roles of the six pirates in order to have more time to prepare the show’s key young cast members. There are boys and girls playing men with the aid of makeup, prosthetics and mutton chops.
Scampi, the Boatswain, for example, sports an eye patch, hook, beard and bald head. He’s played by Alexa Spaventa, who Cannaday described as “the littlest girl I could find who could hold her own.”
The biggest star of the show, Cannaday revealed, might be the full-scale pirate ship M’Lady, designed by Ethan Krupp with technical director Nick Troisi.
“They really tapped into the inner childhood fantasy of making a pirate ship come to life,” Cannaday said. “We’re living and breathing the sea up there on stage with a sail that comes up and down, an anchor crank that worksâ¦ if it just had a bottom it could probably float.”
Cannaday wrote the musical’s 10 original songs as well as the book. Bolstered by arrangements by musical director Michael Fritz, the score will be performed by a live five-piece band. While united in common musical ground, the songs vary from straight-up tango and John Denver-esque folk tunes to rock songs, Dixieland and retooled pirate shanty.
“It’s kid friendly, but I wouldn’t be embarrassed to put it up in front of adults,” Cannaday said.
The author did a lot of research into actual pirate lore but you won’t see any familiar faces in The Landlover.
“It’s a standalone story that takes place after the golden age of pirates. Captain John Flotsam is a fictional character who prides himself on being the last pirate in the sea,” Cannaday said. “The world has sort of moved on from pirates. It’s not so fashionable to be a pirate as maybe it used to be. So the Captain is sort of like a star high school quarterback remembering the glory days.”
- alicia grega