PLANT CITY – When Terry Abbott wrote “Tavern Tales” more than a decade ago, he said he was looking for a vehicle through which he could showcase the spirited Celtic-based tunes he had composed, each with a story onto itself.
“I’m a musician and I had a bunch of songs and so I created a framework, a plot, through which I could use the songs,” he said. “And it worked very well.”
So well, indeed, that the Plant City Entertainment community theater troupe has agreed to stage the “raucous, riotous romp” again, 12 years after its debut in Valrico as a Village Players production.
Following the initial success of “Tavern Tales,” Abbott went on to write “Tavern Tales II,” “Halloween Tales,” “Christmas Tales,” “Neverland,” “Snow White,” “Moonshine” and “The Prophet.” But it’s his first show — “Tavern Tales” — that seeks to attract audiences to the Plant City Entertainment theater, at 101 North Thomas St., on Feb. 7-9 and 13-15.
“First and foremost Tavern Tales is a musical comedy, set in a medieval tavern, about a dark and stormy night and the people, from all walks of life, who seek shelter there,” said Abbott’s brother, Derek, the show’s director. “The show takes place over the course of one single evening. People in the tavern start telling their tales in songs.”
Count among them “Bob” and “Pierre” — the only two characters with names — played by Thom Miller and Domin Pazo, respectively.
“The characters were not written into the play as ‘Bob’ and ‘Pierre,’” Derek Abbott said. “They were sort of developed by those two actors and they were phenomenal actors in their parts. They work so well together and when I wanted to bring “Tavern Tales” back I went to Domin and Thom and asked if they would be up for it.”
Described in the script as clowns, Bob and Pierre “are a couple of barflies,” Derek Abbott said. “They’re the innkeeper’s best friends. They are the Norm and Clif characters from (the television show) Cheers, but I’m not going to tell you which is which.”
As for reprising his role, Pazo said he didn’t think twice.
“Bob and Pierre are like best friends who do nothing but drink and get in trouble,” said Pazo, who first met Miller when the two were Brandon High students, in the classes of 1986 and 1985, respectively. “They’re the comic relief in a show that already is funny. Pierre is the one who is silly, without a care, but Bob, being too serious with his voice, sometimes is just as funny.”
Think Chaucer and Middle Ages when you consider the Medieval tales told in Abbott’s tavern setting, with characters denoted in the script by their station in life. The “nobleman” in the same pub as the “peasant,” for example, witnessing the star-crossed attraction of the “gypsy” with her love-stricken “squire.”
“It’s truly an ensemble cast, a group effort, and it brings together a huge selection of different types of character personalities that you wouldn’t often see together,” said Derek Abbott, who in his directorial duties is assisted by his wife, Michelle.
Heather Cazzola is the choreographer; Kristen Holloway, the musical director; Keith Holmes, the stage manager; and Tom Mitchell assisted Derek Abbott with set design.
Terry Abbott, who plays the role of a “flirtatious peasant,” said his favorite song is nevertheless a darker tune — “The Willow” — which speaks to the developing love between the squire and the gypsy.
“The song forces that love into the forefront,” he said. “It’s a more serious tune, a ballad.”
To describe his music, Terry Abbott uses the terms “very Irish, acoustic, guitars, mandolin” and “handsome harps.” Also, “folksy, old English” and “Irish jigs.”
“I’ve just always had a fascination for that kind of music growing up,” he said. “My family’s Scottish, so we listened to it as we grew up. Between Celtic and bluegrass, that’s what I always heard at my grandparents’ house.”
Derek Abbott said the theater overall — with its lobby seating for snacks and dinner theater — will become an extension of the tavern itself.
“For a building that wasn’t designed as a theater they’ve done some marvelous work in the four years that they’ve had it,” Abbott said about his Plant City Entertainment family. “There’s a huge lobby area that they use for our famous PCE cafe, open before shows and during intermissions. For this play I’m considering the whole lobby the tavern and you’ll see banners hanging” that bring that point home.
More than anything, “Tavern Tales” is about having fun, the Abbott brothers said. And if you leave the theater a bit more connected to the shared human experience, then that’s an even added plus for the show’s creator.
His favorite lyrics hail from the up-beat song sung by the barmaid in the opening song, “Coins on the Table.” She sings: “Here’s to you and all that you do, raise a glass if you’re willing and able, and give out a shout and wave your mug about, and leave some coins on the table.”
“That’s basically it,” Abbott said, about both his show’s loosely woven plot and the life experience in general. “Do what you have to do and have some fun.”
Show dates and times are 8 p.m. Feb. 7-8 and 13-15. There is a 2 p.m. Feb. 9 matinee. Tickets cost $14 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $10 for members. For groups of 10 or more, the price drops to $10. Advance tickets are available at the door and at Hardee’s Fashions in Plant City, at 1501 North Wheeler St. Call: (813) 754-4929. Visit Plant City Entertainment online at www.pce-inc.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/PlantCityEntertainmentInc.