Peek inside the Largo Cultural Center this week, and chances are you'll glimpse pirates swinging from bow to stern atop their ship that juts out over the orchestra pit in the Tonne Playhouse.
Friday through July 21, the Eight O'Clock Theatre group will present Lost at Sea, an original musical featuring more than a dozen singing pirates as well as Alex Jones, a 12-year-old tomboy played by Maggie Musco of Tampa.
As the story unfolds, Alex's father has recently died, and as her family struggles with grief, she fantasizes about escaping to a life on the high seas.
It's the first time Eight O'Clock has had so many swords and knives on the stage at once. The production also brings many veterans of Eight O'Clock Theatre back together.
The two writers are Jason Tucker, 39, who directed Bye Bye Birdie for Eight O'Clock in 2011, and his wife, Amanda Elend, 30, who performed as Belle in the theater's 2006 production of Beauty and the Beast.
There's also music director Emi Stefanov, who served as music director in many of Eight O'Clock's productions including Bye Bye Birdie, Guys and Dolls and Singin' in the Rain. She has known Tucker for more than 16 years and counts him as one of her best friends.
And there is Brent Michael DiRoma, an Equity actor living in Manhattan who recently completed a stint on the national tour for the Broadway hit Jersey Boys. DiRoma, 24, is a Seminole High graduate many remember for his performance as Bobby Strong in Urinetown in 2007.
In Lost at Sea, he plays Captain Blood.
Sixteen months ago, the board of directors of Eight O'Clock Theatre learned that Tucker, who now runs LTM Productions in Nashville, was writing a musical, recalled Betsy Byrd, the business manager for the theater group.
"It wasn't done yet, but we contacted him. We knew with his enthusiasm, what he would bring us would be good, so we invited him to put it on here,'' she said.
When asked about the challenges of creating something from scratch, Tucker said that "putting the script before the music was one of my big challenges.''
"I automatically hear songs in my head first," he said. "I made a point to write the script and then write the songs because I wanted to make sure the songs were accomplishing something, furthering a character's goals, helping a character understand herself, or even helping us and the audience understand the character completely.''
Once the script was complete, the board, along with Tucker and Elend, made sure to notify DiRoma about the auditions.
"We knew Captain Blood was a challenge to cast,'' said Elend, who studied creative writing and American studies at Eckerd College. "He's a young man, but the role needs a mature actor like Brent.''
DiRoma says the role came at a perfect time.
"I was so happy to get the call that this was available. I was finishing up Jersey Boys and it's good to come home for a visit," he said. "Actually, this is what it's like: I feel at home on any stage, but this stage doesn't feel like home, it feels like my living room filled with old friends.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.