Captain Blood (Brent Michael DiRoma) duels with Sheila Shanks (Christina Capehart) aboard the pirate ship Revenge in the Eight O’Clock Theatre production of “Lost at Sea,” running through July 21.
Ahoy! Captain Blood and his crew of scuffling, singing pirates have annexed the stage at Largo Cultural Center.
The siege will no doubt continue as Eight O’Clock Theatre presents its production of the brand new musical “Lost at Sea,” running through July 21, at Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive.
Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 2 p.m. Tickets are $25.50 for adults and $12.50 for students. Call 587-6793 or visit largoarts.com.
This new musical from Pinellas County natives Jason Tucker and Amanda Elend boasts “colorful pirates and rollicking music” – but it’s really much more than that. A colorful and entertaining production, “Lost at Sea” follows the adventure of Alex Jones, a 12-year-old girl who is dealing with the death of her father. She lives with her mother and younger brother and she is drawn to a world of fantasy, exhibiting in particular an obsession with pirates her best friend Simone finds childish.
Everything changes when she and her family visit one of her father’s favorite restaurants. The eatery is, in fact, a moored pirate ship, complete with what appears to be a crew of mechanical pirates, endlessly performing the same clichéd shanty. The setting evokes some obvious regional cues, from Walt Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Magic Kingdom to Tampa Bay area dining spots of a bygone era such as The Careless Navigator of Treasure Island.
A dose of magic realism cleverly alters the milieu and leads Alex into a centuries old story of revenge tied to a blood feud and a voodoo curse.
The show is a homecoming for Tucker and Elend, the husband-and-wife writing team behind “Lost at Sea.” The couple currently resides in Nashville where Tucker runs LTM Productions. It wasn’t that long ago that Tucker regularly helmed Eight O’Clock Theatre productions. Over the years, he directed “Footloose,” “My Favorite Year,” “Into the Woods,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Urinetown,” “The Fantasticks” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” Elend portrayed Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” at Eight O’Clock Theatre.
When choosing a theater where they could present the world premier production of “Lost at Sea,” their relationship with Eight O’Clock Theatre led them home to Pinellas.
“I’m lucky to have a theater I love that is willing to take a chance on our work,” writes Tucker in his note from the director. “And I feel incredibly lucky when I watch this amazing cast and dedicated crew making this crazy little vision come to life.”
And it is an amazing cast and crew that breaths life into “Lost at Sea.” Among the cast is another returning Pinellas thespian: Brent Michael DiRoma.
A graduate of Seminole High School, DiRoma is just coming off a national tour for the Broadway hit “Jersey Boys.” Prior to that, DiRoma earned a nomination for a Helen Hayes award for Outstanding Lead Actor for his portrayal of Princeton and Rod in the national tour of “Avenue Q.” Before all that national attention, DiRoma also starred as Bobby Strong in EOT’s production of “Urinetown.”
DiRoma fashions a dashing, emotive Captain Blood – penitent and gallant, a Robin Hood of the Spanish Main. A member of the Actors' Equity Association, DiRoma’s talent is more than evident in this production: His voice is consistently clear and crisp and his singing is carefully nuanced. His portrayal of the character seems magically effortless, which facilitates the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
Maggie Musco’s Alex Jones is an equally compelling character and Musco makes the most of it. Starring alongside DiRoma, it would have been easy for this 13-year-old actress to find herself eclipsed by the veteran – but that doesn’t happen. Indeed, Musco – who starred previously in “Annie” and in “Miracle on 34th Street” – exhibits a voice that is fresh and agile. Considering her age, her acting is surprisingly flexible in its range and expression.
The balance of the ensemble features a number of very strong musical theater performers, including Rand Smith as Jean Pinot and Christina Capehart as Sheila Shanks. Tucker and Elend have shrewdly added twists in the story that introduce further depth to these two supporting characters. Smith – himself an Eight O’Clock Theatre veteran who starred most recently as King Arthur in “Camelot” – deftly illustrates Pinot’s tragic mix of bitterness and remorse. Capehart – last seen as Ulla in “The Producers” – delightfully underscores her character’s guile and hostility.
Francesca Guanciale Jay stands out as Deb Jones, Alex’s mother, in numbers such as “One Shot” and “Lost at Sea.” Ashton Sarlo, starring as Alex’s little brother Kevin Jones, makes his debut at Eight O’Clock Theatre and does a superb job in his role.
The production benefits from splendid musical direction by the talented Emi Stefanov as well as excellent choreography led by Amy Phillips. Thom Jay handled the fight choreography, making all the heated melee sequences simultaneously smooth and thrilling.
“Lost at Sea” is a solid show with a transfixing story and wonderful music. Standout numbers include the lyrically complex “Lost at Sea,” the stirring “This Is the Dawn” and “One Shot.” Tucker and Elend have crafted something unique and spellbinding, and it is a pleasure to see it debut on a local stage.