‘Pirates of Penzance’ comes to The Grand

August 4, 2017 GMT

KEOKUK – Set sail for an evening of music and laughs with a special student production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic, “The Pirates of Penzance.”

There will be three free performances, including one Saturday, Aug. 12, in Keokuk. The curtain in the Grand Theatre will raise for the show at 7 p.m.

The show will be performed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8, and Friday, Aug. 11, at the Capitol Theatre in Burlington.

“The Pirates of Penzance” has tremendous vocal music with a hilarious storyline. As with most Gilbert and Sullivan shows, the plot is ludicrous, according to promotional materials. Through a mishearing of the word “pilot” as “pirate,” Frederic has served an indenture from a very young age to a band of tender-hearted pirates. His contract, however, expires on his 21st birthday. The story begins with him preparing to leave the pirates and return to normal life. When he falls in love with Mabel, the daughter of Maj. General Stanley, a series of complications leads him to struggle with his conscience to find a moral solution to his dilemma.

The cast is full of very young, but high-quality singers. Fifteen students are involved, ranging in age from 14 to 21.

“Benefiting from an extensive background in musical theater in the Keokuk area, the lead roles of Mabel, played by Joley Seitz, and Frederic, played by Kiersten Reynolds, are sure to delight and inspire audiences with their virtuosic vocal talents,” said director Lori Wilson.

Also from Keokuk is the pianist, Julie Ramsey. Supporting roles were cast from Keokuk, Fort Madison, Notre Dame and Burlington high schools.

The rest of the cast is:

Maj. General Stanley – Alex Sekowski.

Pirate King – Blake Petersen.

Sister – Lilly Schuster.

Ruth – Nicole Merschman.

Sister – Mikaela Terrance.

Police Sergeant – Brandon Ericson.

Sister – Wendolyn Hannum.

Pirate Sam – Bobby Haley.

Sisters – Allison Reynolds.

Pirate – Dylan Londrigan.

Sister – Kaitlyn Broeg.

Pirate – Dominic.

Pianist – Julie Ramsey.

“‘Pirates’ is actually the very first opera I ever performed in at the age of 18, as a freshman in college at UNI,” Wilson said. “That’s when I fell in live with opera.”

Wilson has been trying to build a program at SCC. She teaches kids how to sing – in particular, resonance singing.

“A lot of people don’t have any idea that I’m teaching at SCC at both campuses,” she said. “The days vary per semester.”

According to Wilson, there hasn’t been a student opera in Southeast Iowa for probably 50 years. She chose this opera because it’s written in English and everyone loves pirates.

Wilson is originally from Burlington. When she was 21 years old, she won the Metropolitan Opera’s Special Encouragement Award. She then moved to New York City, lived there for 12 years, trained in opera and got her master’s degree from The Manhattan School Of Music. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Wilson realized she wanted to return home to be closer to family and find opportunity for herself here.

“I decided if you are doing what you love and are surrounded by the people you love, it doesn’t matter what city you live in,” she said. “As a classically trained opera singer, my dream has always been to produce a student opera in my hometown. I think it is extremely important for our viewing public in southeast Iowa to be exposed to this amazingly powerful genre of music. And this summer, all the pieces came together for my dream to become a reality.”

Wilson is the Artist in Residence for SCC. Her platform is “Music Matters at SCC.” The Burlington Fine Arts League gave the program a $2,000 grant. With those funds, the group has visited middle schools and high schools.

When public schools cut their budgets, music is always one of the first things to get cut, according to Wilson. She wants people to know they can still come to SCC for music. SCC offers theater classes, show choir and a program called Jump Start. Jump Start is during the noon hour and gives students college credit.

The Keokuk Concert Association gave $250, which is being used to pay for rental of the Grand Theatre.

Due to the grants, the family-friendly experience is offered free of charge.

Seitz, the female lead, was born and raised in Keokuk.

“This is my first role where I can act like myself,” she said. “It’s a very challenging part, but I like a challenge. I also get to perform with my best friend.”

Seitz and Reynolds grew up in summer theater together and have been friends since seventh grade.

Seitz also helped with eight or nine shows this year. She keeps a full schedule, but she loves it, because it’s what she wants to go into. Seitz is attending SCC and is in her second year. After SCC, she wants to major in music performance and opera, and maybe education down the line.

“I’m so glad SCC has a music program,” Seitz said. “It’s never talked about, so I didn’t even know there was one at first. It’s been an amazing thing to be a part of. And Lori is one of my best music teachers so far – she just ‘gets’ me.”

Seitz is considering a transfer to Southeast Missouri State University, but says it depends on who wants her. She will apply for scholarships. Throughout her high school years, she had a 4.0 grade point average, so she got a Trustee Scholarship that pays for all of her school at SCC. She said she is very grateful for the assistance.

This cast has been rehearsing since the beginning of May. They have worked hard to put together an entertaining show.

For more information, contact Wilson at 319-601-0733 or Lwilson1@scciowa.edu.