I’m not ashamed to admit it—I love pirates. In fact, there is a bumper sticker on the back of my car that reads “Always Be Yourself, Unless You Can Be a Pirate. Then Always Be a Pirate.” Because of this, I jumped at the chance to see the Baltimore Rock Opera Society’s latest show, Brides of Tortuga, and its swashbuckling magic stole my heart!
Directed by Deirdre McAllister, Brides of Tortuga tells the story of a group of brave women who are determined to free those in captivity. Led by Captain Lott, the women slay several men who are planning to transport three unwilling brides to Tortuga. They become pirates in the process, when they take over the captors’ ship. Along the way, a former barmaid Mary joins the pirate crew and slowly starts to see that Lott’s dreams of justice may be more than the captain can realistically achieve.
Deidre McAllister moves the band of fearless females seamlessly from scene to scene, using the entire theater as her stage. Because I do not want to give anything away, I will say that the second to last scene of the show, choreographed by Movement Director Sarah Gorman, is one of the most creative pieces of direction that I have ever witnessed.
Brides of Tortuga is the 8th original production written and produced by the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. A group project, the show was conceived and written by a talented group of writers including: Kris Hanrahan, Ruby Fulton, Sarah “Flash” Gorman, Mike Martino, Pat Storck, Zach Yarosz, Aran Keating, Joey “Twoplaids” Martin, Ren Pepitone and Sarah Weissman. In her director’s note, McAllister emphasizes the goal of creating a work that rejects historical conceptions of women as victims or passive objects of beauty and allows them to be the heroes of the story on their own terms.
Emily Classen is brilliant as Captain Lott. She expertly portrays her character as tough as nails while gracefully moving around the “ship” as a true pirate would.
Rachel Reckling shows true strength in her portrayal of the barmaid-turned-pirate Mary. She also earned extra cheers from the audience for her beautiful singing during the final song “The Pirate Brides.”
As John, the former friend and supporter of Lott, Matthew Casella wowed the audience with his incredible singing voice, especially during “Symbol of Anarchy.”
Special attention should be given to the performances of both Bobby Harris and Derek Vaughan Brown. As King Louis, Harris drew many laughs from the audience, and Brown started off the show with his magnificent voice as Fop.
Set Designer Joey “Twoplaids” Martin’s ships are simply incredible, and Costume Designer Jacob Whayne Dillow provides the perfect attire for both the nobility and pirates alike. Chris Allen does a superb job with his lighting design, and Projectionist Kevin Blackistone creates beautiful blue skies and stunning starry night.
Vocal Director Greg Bowen’s excellent work shows in the beautiful harmonies achieved by the women in the song “Brides of Tortuga,” and Music Co-Directors Ruby Fulton and Carson Korman’s live band is extraordinary. The 10-piece band, conducted by Corman, played the score flawlessly. Unfortunately, there were some sound problems and it was hard, at times, to hear the lyrics.
I loved Chris Reuther’s shadow puppets! In the shapes of the characters, sea monsters and even Poseidon, the shadow puppets are the work of an artistic genius.
It’s time to dig down deep and find your inner rogue pirate! Don’t miss the final performances of Brides of Tortuga!
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.