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University of Iowa News Release

July 3, 2006

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UI's Wacky "Pirates of Penzance" Sail Into the Englert July 14

Thanks to the University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater, there'll be pirates in Iowa City this summer.

And delightfully wacky pirates, too, as the opera theater presents Gilbert and Sullivan's ever-popular Victorian spoof "The Pirates of Penzance," with performances at 8 p.m. Friday, July 14, Friday July 21 and Saturday July 22, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 16, in the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City.

Gary Briggle, a singer/actor and stage director who is acclaimed for his Gilbert and Sullivan productions, will be the guest stage director and appear in the leading comic role of Major General Stanley -- "the very model of a modern major general," as he explains in a famous patter song.

William LaRue Jones, UI director of orchestral studies, will conduct the performances. The sets have been designed by Margaret Wenk of the Division of Performing Arts Production Unit.

One of the great comic creations of all time, "Pirates of Penzance" features an array of ridiculous but charming characters. The pirates are so well known for their kindness that everyone they capture claims to be an orphan to gain their sympathy. Frederic was mistakenly apprenticed to them as a boy -- his father wanted him to be a pilot but the hard-of-hearing nanny thought he said pirate. Frederic's exaggerated sense of duty keeps him in the pirate band until the stroke of noon on his 21st birthday, at which time he vows to exterminate the whole lot.

On the slightly more respectable end of the social spectrum are the bumbling major general, his bevy of beautiful daughters, and a platoon of police more eager to sing of their duty than to do it. The plot features a series of unlikely complications and coincidences, including a leap-year birthday, revelations of noble birth, and of course, happy romantic matches for nearly all the characters at the end.

In the words of critic Bradford Alhambra, "It's all swashbuckling high octane fun." And Steve Callahan wrote in a review for St. Louis radio station KDHX, "It's over a century old, but it's as fresh and appealing as when it first bounded into the public eye on New Year's Eve, 1879. It's 'The Pirates of Penzance' -- perhaps the most irresistible of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic 'Savoy' operas."

Briggle, who is directing his first UI production, commented: "It's thrilling to have such a superbly talented, energetic, smart, attractive young cast to bring this wonderful comic opera to life. They fill the theater with glorious voices and everyone's really kicking up their heels -- there's never a dull moment!

"The staging pays tribute to the rich traditions which Gilbert and Sullivan fans expect, while providing an eye-catching earfull of wonderful choreography and sublime singing. From swooning damsels in distress to slapstick comedy reminiscent of the Keystone Cops, I know audiences young and old will have a terrific time. It's a great musical for the whole family to enjoy. And the Englert Theater is an intimate and  stylish frame for this delightful Victorian valentine."

The cast of UI students includes Robby Kemp as Frederic; Sarah Snydacker as his nanny, Ruth; Dan Cook as the Pirate King; and Allison Holmes as Mabel. Others in the cast will be Kevin Blakeslee as Samuel; Miranda Mallard, Kara Robinson, and Sarah Melton as three of Major-General Stanley's wards; and Jon Meadows as the police sergeant.

Artistic contributors to the production include lighting designer Tim Kupka, costume supervisor Cindy Kubu, scenery supervisor Donald Ladd and production director Richard Loula. Costumes are supplied by Harlequin Costume Co., Winnipeg, Canada.

Briggle is a singer/actor, director and teacher with more than 30 years professional experience in various forms of musical theater. As an actor, he won the Carbonell Award from the South Florida Critics Circle ad the Theatre League of South Florida for his productions of Gilbert & Sullivan operas.. He performed as a member of the Minnesota Opera Company resident ensemble, appearing in premieres and standard repertory operas.

For more than 20 years Briggle has been a performer and director, with ongoing relationships with Seaside Music theater in Florida, Lyric Opera Cleveland and the Arizona Theater Company. In recent years he has been particularly sought after for productions of Gilbert and Sullivan, and has taught throughout the Midwest. For more information, see:

A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997 as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies. The founding director of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., Jones has appeared as a guest conductor with professional, festival, collegiate and student ensembles throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. See:

Performances at the Englert Theatre are made possible by an agreement between the UI Division of Performing Arts and the Englert Theatre, Inc. Admission to "Pirates of Penzance" will be $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $15 for UI students and children 12 and under. Tickets are available from the Englert Box Office, 221 E. Washington in downtown Iowa City. The box office is open 1 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. For phone orders or additional ticket information, call the box office at 319-688-2653.

The mission of the Englert Civic Theatre, Inc., is to own, maintain and operate the Englert Theatre as a community arts center and performance space, enhancing the vitality of Iowa City's historic downtown by preserving its last historic theater.

The School of Music and the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater are parts of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,

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