JULY 22/23/24


Curt Olds, right, plays the Pirate King in Hawaii Opera Theatre's production of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera "Pirates of Penzance."

Hitting the
high notes

Frank DeLima doesn't claim to be a conventional opera singer, but when Hawaii Opera Theatre offered him a part in its summer production of "The Pirates of Penzance" that opens this weekend, he took them up on it.

"Last year when they did 'The Mikado,' they called me ... and said they wanted to include me, but I didn't have the time. They called me again (this year). I warned them I have a hard time memorizing, but they told me it's only one song, and they offered me a price, and I said I'd do it," DeLima explained recently.

A comical night at the opera

Hawaii Opera Theatre presents "The Pirates of Penzance"

Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall

When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through July 31

Tickets: $20 to $75

Call: 596-7858 or go online at www.hawaiiopera.org

DeLima plays the Sergeant of Police in the classic Gilbert and Sullivan convoluted comic tale of Frederic, a young man accidentally apprenticed to a band of pirates, who falls in love with Mabel, the daughter of "a very modern Major-General."

The Sergeant plays a small but important part in untangling the comic confusion that results when Frederic, who has a very strong sense of honor and duty, is forced to weigh his obligations to the pirates against his duty to society.

"There's a few more songs than just one, but that's OK, because even though I've always had a problem with memorizing things, I'm enjoying the cast. They're very supportive and I'm honored to be a part of this. It's a thrill to listen to them in rehearsal."

Fortunately for DeLima, the opera company "wants me to be DeLima, and so I'm gonna be as much DeLima as I possibly can without going too far from the story. As far as the English accent, I'll probably do some of it. We'll see how it goes."

IN HIS own comic showcase, DeLima has been famous over the years for forgetting his scripted material and improvising as he goes along. He is rarely, if ever, fully rehearsed when he opens a new show, and it rarely if ever matters. No one in local show biz ad libs better than DeLima. (He returns to Waikiki on Aug. 5, for a Fridays-only engagement at Margaritas on Lewers Street).

But since "Pirates" isn't his show, he intends to be on his best behavior for opening night.

Frank DeLima plays the Sergeant of Police. The local comedian said he will bring as much of himself as he can to the part, without going over the top.

"When you have a huge orchestra and a chorus behind you, everything moves so quickly, you can throw the whole timing off. At one point in rehearsals, the director told the chorus, 'Frank can go off on his own. He'll catch up,' but I have confidence I'll be on the button in the show."

It may help a bit that this isn't DeLima's first encounter with Gilbert and Sullivan. Patrick Downes, the primary writer of his song parodies for over two decades, appropriated the melody of "When I Was a Lad"" one of the best-known numbers in the duo's earlier operettas, "H.M.S. Pinafore," and recycled it as the framework for the satirical "Bishop Estate Trustee."

DeLima will also be drawing on his years of experience as the star of Diamond Head Theatre's popular Christmas production of "Scrooge."

"I had plenty room to ad lib, but I still had to remember certain lines that I couldn't stray away from because (other actors) pick up from your last lines. I don't have that problem too much in this one. It's just a matter of timing, and singing and getting all those words out -- and the words are not pidgin.

"I have Cathy Foy behind me (on stage) and she has my words already, so she'll yell out a word to get me back on track."

DeLima has found that writing things over and over helps him with his memory. He recycles old telephone books as writing tablets. His role in "Pirates" required "maybe two" telephone books to learn.

"I'm earning every red cent they offered me," he says with a hearty chuckle, "But I've having a great time and I'm excited, and you know me, when there's an audience, there's a magic that comes out."

Jean Stilwell and George Dyer in "Pirates of Penzance."

| | |
E-mail to Features Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com