Entertainers often say performing in front of a home crowd is one of their most challenging experiences.
It will be even more nerve-racking for Wollongong-bred actor Joel Elferink, who will be having his first crack at the lead role he has been understudy for in the current season of The Pirates of Penzance.
The comic opera, on tour from London where Elferink has been based since 2007, marks his first trip home in three years.
After being understudy for the role of Frederic and in the ensemble cast for the performances so far, he is keen to show his skills to people from his home town.
‘‘I’m a little bit nervous, but definitely more excited than anything,’’ he says.
Working as an understudy can be a difficult task. You must be ready to take on a character at a minute’s notice. Elferink says he was lucky it was pre-organised for him to perform Frederic for three shows in Wollongong. He had time to watch and work with Matthew Gent, the actor normally in the role, to get ready for his turn.
‘‘You’ve got to keep an extra eye on what he’s doing and have to grab a little bit of time here and there to get some rehearsing in,’’ he says.
Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic operetta tells the story of Frederic, a young man apprenticed to a band of pirates until his 21st birthday. When he comes of age, he goes in search of a life on land and falls in love with Mabel, becoming torn between loyalty to her family and the pirates.
Known for its humour and lyrically-complicated tunes, this version features an all-male cast. Unlike other productions where men playing women is done as farce, this adaptation intends to evoke the innocence of a play put on by a single-gender school.
‘‘The guys don’t come out in wigs or drag up, it’s literally they come on stage in just dresses, so it’s clear they’re men on stage, but it’s played with so much truth, that by the end of the show you forget it’s a man as a woman,’’ Elferink says.
Director Sasha Regan says the all-male element was based on her experiences of productions she was involved in at an all-girls school in England and thinks it adds a fresh element to text more than a century old.
Beginning in a 50-seat theatre in London’s Southwark in 2009, Regan says she is thrilled the response to her adaptation has been positive enough to allow her to take it around the world.
Although the cast has changed a few times since the original run, she says this is a positive thing because each new actor brings their own quirks to the role.
‘‘When you have new actors taking on the parts, each of them bring their own little touches to it.
‘‘But when old cast members see it, I’m sure they see much of their characterisation, their little touches that just end up in it.’’
The Illawarra Performing Arts Centre will play host to The Pirates of Penzance this week from Wednesday to Sunday.
For tickets call 4224 5999.