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Ho-ho, yo. There's something odd about the saltiest scalawag on the sea, as Friday night's audience discovered in the opening performance of The Laughable Legend of Fancybeard the Bully Pirate at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theater.

For all his boom and swagger, the big bully can't hold his own against three cap'n kids who learn to collaborate. He swaggers on (Jeremy Matthey in full sail as Fancybeard), but he stomps off in a loser's snit.

The 70-minute show weighed anchor with about 250 children and adults on board at the children's theater in Little Rock's MacArthur Park.

John Isner directs playwright Keith Smith's original story that centers on a trio of would-be buccaneers (Joanna Huff, Yusuf Richardson and Max Green), fifth-graders at the Tortuga Pirate Academy.

They learn the ropes from their Cap'n Headmaster (Mark Hansen). But they still have one more lesson to learn: how to combine what they know in order to find Fancybeard's treasure, guarded by the ghost of Fancybeard himself.

Isner is a mainstay of the children's theater, and a pirate is exactly the sort of thump-and-bluster role that he would excel at playing himself. He runs a worthy ship as director, too, charting a course through the lumpy waves of a slow start, straight on to the manic energy of a Tex Avery cartoon.

Cast standouts include Geoffrey Eggleston as loony Rooney, the young pirates' unreliable guide; and Aleigha Morton as green-shimmering Myrna the sea witch. Able seamen Tyler Wisdom and Grace Taylor round out the crew, while Lori Isner's musical score is the sprightly breeze that keeps the ship moving.

Worth a shiny doubloon is the innovation of a backdrop screen that shows details and clues that would be too small for the audience to see otherwise. Everybody gets a peek at the map, and so everybody gets to play pirates-arr!-us.

The Laughable Legend of Fancybeard the Bully Pirate continues through Feb. 19. More information is available at arkansasartscenter.org, or by calling (501) 372-4000.

Metro on 02/04/2017

Print Headline: Bully pirate Fancybeard outwitted by young bucs

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