A 'blast' from the past: Young actors take on the challenge of 'Pirates'
Taking the stage at Andria Theatre this Friday in a production that first was staged nearly 140 years ago will be 45 students ranging in age from 10 to 18.
The "Pirates of Penzance Jr.," a swashbuckling musical set on the rocky coast of Cornwall, England, is a humorous farce involving pirates, police and beautiful young maidens.
Ari Janssen of Alexandria plays the role of Mabel, the daughter of a boastful major general.
"Mabel" has a very high soprano voice, which Janssen said was "very difficult," but also a great experience because she got to use her voice in that way.
"Mabel has been a blast," she said. "She is a fun character because she always sees the best in people, which is how I always try to live my life."
Janssen, a junior at Alexandria Area High School who has performed in at least 10 productions, said Mabel has been her favorite character to play, although it was an "extremely challenging" role.
"I love that I get to be syrupy sweet, proper and get to wear a hat and fancy dress," Janssen said. "It was challenging because of when the script was written. ... The language is very different from how we speak now and also the songs are extremely difficult to sing. But, why not challenge yourself, right?"
Janssen said when she was younger, she used to be shy, but then she found theater and it brought her out of her shell.
"I was nervous," said the 17-year-old of her first time on stage. "But it was the best thing I ever did."
Being involved in theater is "just like having another family," Janssen said, because everyone involved welcomes people with open arms.
And with the number of characters in the Pirates play, Janssen said the amount of energy they brought was undeniable.
"It is a powerful group and on stage, we rock it," she said. "This cast has become a second family to me and it is my hope to always influence each cast member in a positive way."
Nick Nelson, 15, a freshman at Alexandria Area High School, plays the role of the Pirate King in "Pirates of Penzance Jr."
"It is such a fun experience," said Nelson. "The people you get to work with are amazing and they become your family. It's so fun."
Bianca Wegner, 15, an Alexandria sophomore, plays the role of Sergeant.
Last summer, Wegner played the role of a soldier in "Mulan" and it ended up being her favorite character to play so far because it was such a serious character, she said.
However, she loves performing in musicals, like "Pirates," because she loves to dance. She said she loves the "cheesy aspect" of musicals because they are fun and lighthearted.
"Being in a play feels like having a second home," she said. "We become more like family instead of just friends."
Wegner said she would love to work as an actress in New York, Chicago or maybe even Disney World. If that doesn't work out, Wegner said she wants to become a paleontologist.
Director David Christman Christman said "Pirates of Penzance" is still "one of the greatest of all time." He said theaters all over the world still love to perform it and audiences who attend this production will see why.
"It's a blast," he said. "And we are blessed in this area to have such rich theater experiences."
'Pirates of Penzance Jr.'
When: March 9-11 and 16-18; Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Where: Andria Theatre, 618 Broadway St., Alexandria
Tickets: Go to www.andriatheatre.org or call the box office at 320-762-8300.
Samuel — Brody Uhlenkamp
Pirate King — Nick Nelson
Frederic — Levi Lotti
Ruth — Emily Kaatz
Edith — Lauren Russell
Kate — Madeline Dudley
Isabel — Brookellyn Lesnau
Mabel — Ari Janssen
Major General — Andy Tollin
Sergeant — Bianca Wegner
Director — David Christman
Assistant director — Holly Wallerich
Stage manager — Ailee Velasquez
Student assistant stage manager — Rachel Wallerich
Set design and construction, sound and lights — Quincy Roers
Make-up and costumes — Katie Niemeyer
Costume assistant — Sarah Biver
Make-up assistant — Katelyn Tracy
Student costume and make-up assistants — Lexi Guenther and Ryan Ledman