Saturday, July 23, 2011

LOVE PIRATES OF HAWAII

My friend Russell loves this show, so I'd better be especially careful in my writeup for it. Fortunately, that's not difficult, because LOVE PIRATES OF HAWAII (1918), by Otis Carrington (no cover, unfortunately), is a show that's easy to love.

We're in the garden of a ladies' seminary in, of course, Hawaii. It's an important day, because the US cruiser Tennessee is coming to port, bringing with it a certain young lady's sweetheart. But because men arent allowed on the grounds, the plan is for the sailor and his friends to come in disguise as visiting college professors. And this means tidying the place up a bit.

MAILE. If we're having company, we must tidy up a bit.

LEHUA. And practice our new song.

GIRLS. Our new song!

DOROTHY. You can do that later. Better fix up now.

GIRLS. The song first!

DOROTHY. As usual, the song comes first. Fine, sing your heads off. I'll not wait for you. (exits left)

Any wonder why Carrington is so easy to love? Anyway, they do indeed sing, then wander off to presumably help Dorothy. But hark! A pirate chief! has come into view, bringing his men with him, intent on abducting the schoolmistress Miss Primer, because he's madly in love with her — and he can spout off poetry to make his case. They hide, only moments before she comes on, bringing with her a letter to Dorothy from her sailor, telling her that the plan's been changed: they wont be coming as professors, but as pirates! So of course, when the real pirates jump into view, she thinks they're the sailor/professor/pirates and decides to teach them a lesson.

MISS PRIMER. That you foreswear this pirate business and serve in my kitchen as cooks.

CHIEF. To serve you, what bliss!

Never mind that none of them know how to cook. All they need is a cookbook, and they're set to do "our manly best!"

Meanwhile Dorothy (who, if you remember, was supposed to be cleaning) sits on a bench and pines for her sailor Billy, who conveniently shows up in full pirate costume. He came, sadly, alone, but she makes sure her friends all understand that when Miss Primer is around, they are to be very afraid of this bloodthirsty pirate.

KARLANI. Tell us what you think a pirate's life is like.

BILLY. I'm afraid I cant tell you very little about the pirate business. But I can give you a pirate song if you care to listen.

GIRLS. A song, a song.

DOROTHY. Another song!

When he's done, Miss Primer appears. Billy tries to bluster her, but she's not taken in with it. After all, she's just captured an entire crew of pirates, and the pretenda-pirate Billy is suddenly taken and bound by the pretenda-cooks that used to be pirates (that, remember, Miss Primer thinks were just simple sailors, and... oh, you'll figure it out).

So Billy's taken off to some sort of detention. Dorothy tells Miss Primer that she has no idea who the rest of the people are, that the only one she knows is Billy. Miss Primer realizes that she has indeed captured an entire pirate crew. And this worries her. That Dorothy helped Billy escape worries her even more.

DOROTHY. I am not through. Listen, he told me that as soon as he saw your pirates —

MISS PRIMER. MY pirates?

DOROTHY. Your pirates!

MISS PRIMER. My pirates?

DOROTHY. The real pirates. He recognized them as desperadoes much sought by the United States Government.

MISS PRIMER. Desperadoes?

GIRLS. Desperadoes?

But Billy's returned to his ship to get help. Miss Primer decides the best thing to do is just act natural. For herself, she's off to her garden.

DOROTHY. What can we do to kill time?

GIRLS. We might sing.

DOROTHY. I might have guessed what you would say. There seems to be nothing else you can do.

(I'm likin' this broad!)

The pirates have indeed figured out that Billy's escaped, but none are brave enough to tell the Pirate Chief. But that's okay, because he's off wooing Miss Primer with an appeal to her sympathies.

CHIEF. But I insist that I am not a pirate by nature. It was circumstances over which I had no control that led me into this life.

MISS PRIMER. Oh if only I could believe you, it would make me so happy.

CHIEF. You will believe me when I tell you that my father was a Pacifist and my mother a suffragette.

MISS PRIMER. Poor man, to be raised under such circumstances. You are to be praised for not being worse than you are.

And to prove his love, he tells her that his crew has captured and bound the pretenda-pirate and that he will now bring the rapscallion to her. But of course that doesnt work because Billy's escaped. And that makes the Pirate Chief really, really angry...

But that doesnt matter because Billy has returned in the nick of time and has surrounded the seminary with the entire crew of the Tennessee. The pirates beg for mercy because they're not crooks anymore but cooks... until Miss Primer reminds the Pirate Chief

The words you speak are only true in part
For you have been a robber and robbed me of my heart

And with much flower throwing and singing and hula dancing, the curtain falls.

Okay, it's obviously lifted from a few sources, like, oh, I dunno, PIRATES OF PENZANCE, maybe? And really all it needs is a patter song or two to cement the comparison. Still, one has to remember that Carrington initially wrote these for his school (see Windmills of Holland for the background on this), so one has to forgive the oddly familiar plot. And the characters are all beautifully drawn, from Dorothy the lead who apparently doesnt like sharing the musical spotlight with anyone to the supposedly desperado Pirate Chief who's willing to learn culinary arts just to be with the woman he so desperately loves.

Carrington's music is just difficult enough for his young performers to show off a bit: no overly complicated parts work and a sufficiently wide range of tempe to keep the parade of solos constantly fresh. It's a cute little work, certainly more intriguing than Windmills, with just enough plot turns to keep it all moving.

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