When Edmonton Opera hosted a kids’ competition for a walk-on role in Pirates of Penzance, Karina Cox, 14, was sure she’d bottom-out.
Instead, the St. Albert singer, last seen in St. Albert Children’s Theatre’s Willy Wonka, won the ensemble role. Describing her audition of I Want It Now, Cox says, “I was shocked. I felt the judges liked it, but compared to the other people, I felt they had more operatic voices.”
Now that Cox has had two weeks to ease into the role of Endira, one of the major-general’s younger daughters, she’s pumped about Pirates’ three day run at the Jubilee, opening tonight.
Also prancing in the spotlight is another St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus, John Kirkpatrick, in the comedic role of Samuel, the Pirate King’s right-hand man. Refining a stage career that spanned several decades, Kirkpatrick has amassed a lengthy list of acting credits (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Fully Committed) as well as a five-year stint as artistic director of River City Shakespeare Festival.
But singing in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta is a gig he’s never dipped his toes into. “This is awesome. I love it. The style is so witty and clever,” Kirkpatrick says.
He’s blown away the stuffy cobwebs of Samuel’s character, and infused him with a foppish personality — that of the overly sensitive guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. “I will say he is flamboyant and has a broad range of emotions. He’s very expressive.”
A lot of the enthusiasm that is bubbling throughout the cast is in large part due to Robert Herriot, a stage director with a distinguished resume that hopscotches across North America.
On his third engagement with Edmonton Opera, Herriot’s (HMS Pinafore and Daughter of the Regiment) approach is to do away with cookie-cutter styles.
For instance, he says, “Ruth is traditionally played as a one-dimensional hard-edge pirate maid. We’ve turned her into a Victorian nursemaid that likes to take a nip on the side.”
And although Herriot is offering a light interpretation, there’s still a lot of room for characters to grow. “I look for the truth in characters, and the comedy comes out of the truth of the moment and what’s in the story.”
Pirates of Penzance, satirizing the Royal Navy and British society’s obsession with status, is the tale of Frederic (Lawrence Wiliford), an orphan mistakenly apprenticed to a gang of pirates until his 21st birthday.
Released from his bondage, he meets Mabel (Nikki Einfeld), one of the major-general’s daughters and falls in love with her. The pirates arrive and each claims one of Mabel’s sisters. However, the major-general refuses to have pirates for sons-in-law and the fun begins.
As Kirkpatrick says, “It’s the topsy-turvy world of Gilbert and Sullivan done by a first-rate cast who have an amazing sense of humour and sing a wonderful score. It’s a great show.”
The Pirates of Penzance<br />Edmonton Opera<br />Feb. 6, 9, 11 at 7:30 p.m.<br />Jubilee Auditorium<br />11455 - 87 Ave.<br />Tickets: $32 to $165. Call 780-451-8000 or go online to: www.ticketmaster.ca