Hickory – The Hickory Community Theatre loves welcoming newcomers to the company; so much so that the annual Kay Awards include trophies for Outstanding Female Newcomer and Outstanding Male Newcomer. In what may be a new record, there are seven actors in the cast of THE PIRATE QUEEN who are stepping into the Jeffers Theatre for the first time. The epic musical opens its eight performance run on June 3 and performances continue through June 18.

Holli Armstrong is a Newton native, now living in Hickory who works as a machinist for Automated Machine Design. Although she is a newcomer to HCT, THE PIRATE QUEEN is not her first time on stage. Armstrong made her community theatre debut in 2010 as Ursula in THE TEMPEST with the Green Room Community Theatre.

Gina Barlow is a medical assistant admin for Catawba Valley Family Medicine and Hickory native, though now currently residing in Hudson. Her most recent theatre experiences have been watching her daughter, Jenni Canterbury, performing on stage. Barlow’s most recent time on stage was as the Governor’s Wife in A CHRISTMAS CAROL with Foothills Performing Arts in 2010.

Justin Chaple works as a physical therapist for the Veteran’s Administration and relocated to Hickory in 2021. Although originally from Vale he left for Indiana where he received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Indiana University, prior to his return to North Carolina. Chapel was a cruise ship performer from 2000-2005, which took him to 25 different countries.

Ashlen Cheers is a self-employed home health aide who lives in Granite Falls. Originally from Green Cove Springs, FL, she relocated to North Carolina in 2016. She had her first North Carolina theatre experience playing Mary Sunshine in CHICAGO at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She attended Fleming Island High School in Florida where she played Elle in LEGALLY BLOND in 2016.

Alicia Isabella Hargrove is a Hickory native and THE PIRATE QUEEN is her first time on stage. She has loved musical theatre all her life and wanted to try it for herself. She is a homeschool sophomore and has attended the Suzuki School of the Arts. Hargrove plays piano and violin, dances ballet and says her favorite thing about THE PIRATE QUEEN is that she gets to sing.

Bradley Langan works two jobs, he is a stocker at Lowe’s Foods and a delivery driver for Jimmy John’s. Originally from Charlotte, he’s lived in Hickory since 2015. After graduating Hickory High School in 2018 he left for New York City to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy where he received a Bachelor’s in Performing Arts in 2021.

Tasha Williams a lifelong Hickory resident who is also pulling double duty on the job front, working at Home Goods and Hickory Bread Café. THE PIRATE QUEEN is her stage debut and she says she auditioned because it gives her to opportunity to learn a new craft. It’s also a good fit because she enjoys pirates and history. She has a BA in Criminal Studies from Salem College.

Based on the novel Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas, THE PIRATE QUEEN is a sweeping epic of love, honor, and piracy in Renaissance Ireland. It follows the real life story of Grace O’Malley, the heir to the O’Malley clan. In a time when women were expected to learn skills to make a good wife in the homestead, Grace defies her father and earns the title “The Pirate Queen,” inspiring men and women alike to follow her.

Performances of THE PIRATE QUEEN are Fridays and Saturdays, June 3-18 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, June 12 at 2:30 pm and Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 pm in the Jeffers Theatre. Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for youth and students. There is a 25% discount on adult tickets for Opening Night.

Tickets are available online at hickorytheatre.org, or by phone at 828-328-2283. Weekday box office hours are 12-5, Wednesday through Friday, or one half-hour before any performance. THE PIRATE QUEEN is rated PG.

PHOTO: (from left) Bradley Langan, Tasha Williams, Justin Chaple, Gina Barlow, Alicia Isabella Hargrove, Holli Armstrong and Ashlen Cheers are all making their Hickory Community Theatre debut in THE PIRATE QUEEN. Performances run June 3-18 in the Jeffers Theatre. Photo by Eric Seale.