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Theater Review: “Around the World in 80 Days”

“Around the World in 80 Days” plays through December 22, 2019, at New Village Arts, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad.
Photo credit:
Daren Scott

And now for something completely (or at least delightfully) different: New Village Arts’ world premiere of the pirate version of “Around the World in 80 Days,” with original music composed by Joseph Freeman and Renee Moreno of Leucadia’s pirate rock band Shantyannes.

The script is playwright Laura Eason’s 2008 riff on the Jules Verne classic. The plot hasn’t changed. It lacks an air balloon, but so did Verne’s story (only the film version has that). This show boasts 12 new tunes, mostly jaunty shanty types with a few lovely ballads. 

English gentleman Phileas Fogg (Frankie Alicea-Ford) loves a good bet, so he wagers his fellow whist club members 20,000 pounds that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. Then he has to do it.

He hires a new (cross-dressing) valet named Passepartout (Audrey Eytchison), bouncy and adorable, who confides to a friend that “I have seen more lively figures at Mme. Tussaud’s, but we shall get on well.” And the adventure begins.

Along the way, Fogg will save an Indian woman – widow Mrs. Aouda (Farah Dinga) – from immolation, buy an elephant when the train tracks become unusable and have a few other amusing adventures. They will visit Calais, Brindisi, Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, Hong Kong, and Yokohama other places on the way to making good on Fogg’s bet.

Jasmine January provides lung power in several roles, doing some dynamite singing. Dinga is lovely and perfect as Mrs. Aouda, and meets Fogg just in time to be rescued from the funeral pyre and fall in love.

Let’s not forget AJ Knox, hilariously outmatched as police inspector Fixx, the hapless villain who chases Fogg around the world.

Rae Henderson, Alexander X Guzman and Olivia Pence each play multiple roles, and each performance also includes a member of the Mainstage Players, NVA’s theater program for actors with special needs.

The eight cast members are versatile and perfectly cast. They can sing, dance, act and perform circus feats like walking on hands and walking a tightrope.

The fine four-member band is led by Tony Houck, who also arranged the songs for eight voices. Jenna Ingrassia-Knox’s sprightly choreography keeps the beat going and the eyes engaged.

Tanya Orellana’s set looks like a ship’s hold, with huge portholes. Emily Wilson’s period-look costumes add to the authenticity. Violet Ceja and Becky Goodman contribute fine sound and lighting designs, and Ray Leonard’s projections keep us clued in to where we are.

New Village Arts almost always gives us engaging production, and “Around the World in 80 Days” is no exception.

The details

“Around the World in 80 Days” plays through December 22, 2019, at New Village Arts, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad.

Thursday at 7:30 p.m; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (760) 433-3245 or www.newvillagearts.org