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Pirates and daughters and cops, oh my!: Comic operetta coming to Bethel stage

by Abigail Bechtel

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Bethel College theater and music departments will bring one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular short operas to the Krehbiel Auditorium stage.

Performances of the comedic operetta The Pirates of Penzance will be March 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., with a March 9 matinee at 2 p.m., all in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center.

Ticket prices are $12 adults; $10 non-Bethel students and senior citizens; and $5 Bethel students and children age 3-12. Tickets are available at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; by phone with a credit card, 316-284-5205; or at the door, subject to availability.

This opera has been proven to keep audiences entertained and laughing until the very end.

Pirates of Penzance is a comedy, definitely,” said Audra Miller, fifth-year senior from Hesston, who plays Ruth, the pirates’ maid-of-all-work. “It’s high-energy and it’s gonna look cool.”

Plus, she added, “It’s good to be cultured every once in a while.”

The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty is about a goofy band of sappy pirates, a major general’s large family of girls, some policemen and all of their shenanigans.

This comic opera in two acts was the first of Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert’s collaborations to have its official premiere in the United States (New York City, Dec. 31, 1879) and it has been an audience favorite ever since.

Among its songs is one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s best known and most often-parodied, “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.”

The story concerns Frederic, an apprentice with a pirate band based in Cornwall, who has just completed his 21st year. He leaves the pirates and meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley. Frederic and Mabel fall instantly in love.

However, Frederic discovers he was born on Feb. 29, meaning he technically has a birthday only in a leap year. His apprenticeship terms dictate he must serve the pirates until his 21st birthday – another 63 years. Bound by his own sense of duty, Frederic’s only solace is that Mabel agrees to wait for him faithfully.

“The cast is hilarious,” said Will Lewis, senior from Newton, who plays Frederic. “It’s great to see their interpretations of the characters come out as we get more and more comfortable with each other and our parts.”

Despite being a comedy, this Gilbert & Sullivan show has a considerable cast, making it quite the undertaking.

“I love to come to rehearsal and watch it all come together,” said Katie Schmidt, junior from North Newton. “It is a big cast and so the stage is always full of wild dancing and wonderful singing – so much activity, it seems like we will never make sense of it all.

“But it is sort of magically coming together day by day. I can’t wait for show night, because I know it will be a riot.”

Schmidt and Luke Loganbill, junior from Moundridge, are the stage managers.

Cody Claassen, junior from Whitewater, who plays Samuel, the Pirate King’s lieutenant, agreed with Schmidt.

“People should see this show, not only to see all the hard work and passion that has been poured into it, but also to see probably one of the best shows performed this school year,” Claassen said.

In addition to Miller, Lewis and Claassen, the cast of the Bethel College production of The Pirates of Penzance includes Jill Siebert, sophomore from Topeka, as Mabel; Riley King, junior from Lawrence, as the Pirate King; Aaron Tschetter, senior from Freeman, S.D., as Major-General Stanley; Nikolai Krahn, senior from Mountain Lake, Minn., as the Sergeant of Police; Caroline Mayhew, senior from Lawrence, as Edith; Emily Luedtke, senior from Wichita, as Kate; and Tara Harms-Becker, junior from Hesston, as Isabel.

Members of the chorus (pirates, daughters and policemen) are Daniel Barrera, Newton; Philippe David, North Newton; Caleb Epp, Marion, S.D.; Brenan Erb, Henderson, Neb.; Tevin Freel, Spring, Texas; Lisa Goering, Lawrence; Emily Harder, Newton; Kathryn Kelman, Ft. Worth, Texas; Clarie Koehn, Cottonwood Falls; Ben Kreider, North Newton; Carl Lehmann, Marion, S.D.; Cris Nelson, Marietta, Ga.; Kyle Riesen, Beatrice, Neb.; Melinda Regehr, Whitewater; Allison Rudeen, Osage City; Casey Schunn, Whitewater; Ariel Silva, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Dalton Smith, Burrton; Chase Stucky, Moundridge; Taylor Stucky, Moundridge; Leah Towle, Lawrence; Michelle Unruh, Goessel; Andrew Walker, Newton; Madelyn Weaver, Hesston; Amy Wedel, Peabody; and Jocelyn Wilkinson, San Antonio, Texas.

The stage director is John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts. Choreographer is Danika Bielek, director of Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts, and music director is Chris David Westover, Bethel director of instrumental music.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.