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A 'blast' from the past: Young actors take on the challenge of 'Pirates'

Ari Janssen of Alexandria (center stage) plays the role of Mabel in Andria Theatre's upcoming production of Pirates of Penzance Jr. The show opens this Friday, March 9. Janssen, a junior at Alexandria Area High School, is the daughter of Scott and Kellie Janssen. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 4
The pirate cast in Andria Theatre's upcoming production of Pirates of Penzance Jr. includes (in no particular order) Savannah Auran, Roxanne Sweetwater, Abigail Nelson, Myra Nelson, Abby Faber, Chloe Roed, Avery Sinning, Jeryn Drewes, Addison Randazzo, Tai Auran, Jonah Heidelberger, Isaac Kent, Mia Meier, Brody Uhlenkamp, Nick Nelson, Levi Lotti and Emily Kaatz. 2 / 4
The cast of daughters for the upcoming production of Pirates of Penzance Jr. include (in no particular order) Lily Heidelberger, Ashley Donnely, Brooke Houska, Jordan Rymer, Sailor Peterson, Allie Randazzo, Sofia Wray, Teryn Jawoski, Allie Trombley, Mya Santelman, Lauren Russell, Madeline Dudley, Brookellyn Lesnau and Ari Janssen. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 4
The cast of cops in Andria Theatre's production of Pirates of Penzance Jr., which opens this Friday, March 9, includes (in no particular order), Elena Fuglestad, Emily Staples, Regan Peterson, Jayme O'Brien, Jasper McDaniels, Harry Greathouse, Jacob Trombley, Heather Bollman, Hannah Rinniker, Parker Zwach, Kylee Dummer, Malorie Raether and Bianca Wegner. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 4 / 4

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 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

Cops chorus:

Elena Fuglestad

Emily Staples

Regan Peterson

Jayme O'Brien

Jasper McDaniels

Harry Greathouse

Jacob Trombley

Heather Bollman

Hannah Rinniker

Parker Zwach

Kylee Dummer

Malorie Raether

Pirates chorus:

Savannah Auran

Roxanne Sweetwater

Abigail Nelson

Myra Nelson

Abby Faber

Chloe Roed

Avery Sinning

Jeryn Drewes

Addison Randazzo

Tai Auran

Jonah Heidelberger

Isaac Kent

Mia Meier

Daughters chorus:

Lily heidelberger

Ashley Donnely

Brooke Houska

Jordan Rymer

Sailor Peterson

Allie Randazzo

Sofia Wray

Teryn Jawoski

Allie Trombley

Mya Santelman


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

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. She enjoys running and has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon distances.

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