‘Pirates’ musical comedy to launch week 2 of Summer Arts Festival

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

This summer offers the chance to run away with a band of pirates in search of treasure – no strings attached. You’ll be back in a few hours and won’t have to travel any farther than the banks of Buck Creek.

Join the funniest group of buccaneers this side of the Caribbean when an original musical comedy kicks off week two of the 58th Summer Arts Festival as “The Last Pirates of the Vast Golden Treasure” sets sail at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday in Veterans Park as this year’s Broadway in the Park presentation.

Admission is free and the show is presented by the Springfield Arts Council.

“The Last Pirates” is something of a cousin to historical comedy classics “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Spamalot.” It was dreamed up by Dan Hunt, who is now the executive director of the Clark State Performing Arts Center, over several years and had its premiere there in 2018.

It was well received, but has sat in dry dock since. Hunt was happy to get the band of pirates back together for Veterans Park, tightening up the dialogue and adding fresh touches and a new song.

“It’s a slap-happy, funny escape piece to get people away,” said Hunt.

The musical presents a band of inept pirates who find a message in a bottle, leading them to a kingdom where they will do battle, look for fair maidens, attempt to free an imprisoned king and maybe find treasure. There’s also a strong female element to it as women have taken over the kingdom and are in charge — although the pirates think they are — but it’s up to them to save the kingdom.

One of the biggest challenges was adjusting the show from the Kuss Auditorium stage to the Veterans Park Amphitheater.

“The park is huge, so everything has to be big and broad. This isn’t film acting, we have to play it back to the creek,” said Hunt.

Another fun aspect is the cast of more than 30, which features a lot of younger actors, some of whom were in the Arts Council’s Youth Arts Ambassadors, a few high school students and some of the older crowd who have been in a number of such shows. Hunt counts only three who were in the original production.

“It’s fun for me to see the new actors take it on. It brings a fresh perspective,” he said.

Taylor Nelson was just an 18-year-old high school student for that first “Pirates” production and was hoping it wouldn’t be only last voyage. She got her wish as villainess Lady Anne, who wreaks havoc over the kingdom and leads the Ladies of Anarchy.

“I said to myself back then if they ever do this again, I want to play Lady Anne,” Nelson said. “It’s great fun being the villain. I get to be super fun and crazy.”

One of the things she likes is this being original, there are no videos of previous performances or expectations as with familiar shows. As this is her first outdoor show, she said there’s a different mindset projecting to an audience and looks forward to their experiencing her form of singing which comes out like rapping.

“There’s something for everybody and there’s parallels to other musicals but with a lot of heart like a big fairy tale,” said Nelson.

Anthony Reed didn’t think he wanted to do another show after performing in the recent Clark State production of “The SpongeBob Musical.” The chance to play the lead role of Pirate Earl, the leader of the motley crew, was like finding hidden treasure.

He was a Clark State theater student when the show was first produced and regretted not trying out for the cast.

“I wasn’t going to miss it again,” said Reed.

He’s a veteran of previous Broadway in the Park productions including “Oliver!” and “Legally Blonde” and describes it as a whole different experience as any given night could be hot, rainy or just right.

“There are different acoustics and there can be hundreds of people. I encourage everybody to come out and see this, it’s such a fun, easy watch,” he said.

Thursday’s performance will offer an extra chance to get into the spirit with “Dress Like a Pirate Night” in which attendees can put on their best pirate gear, get a selfie with Captain Jack and possible win prizes beginning at 6 p.m.

Also this week will be one of the festival’s most popular shows, Resurrection: A Journey Tribute at 8 p.m. Saturday and KidsFest, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday in Veterans Park.


What: “The Last Pirates of the Vast Golden Treasure”

Where: Veterans Park, 250 Cliff Park Rd., Springfield

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, Thursday, June 13 and Friday, June 14

Admission: Free; donations accepted

More info: www.springfieldartscouncil.org/

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