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University of Maine Musicians Part of Ellsworth Gilbert & Sullivan Celebration

Contact: Contacts: Lud Hallman, 581-1249; Marilyn Brossmer (207) 374-2516; George Manlove, 581-3756

Editors’ note: Cast members with major roles and their home towns are listed in this release. Communities include Bangor, Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Ellsworth, Herman, North Penobscot, Orland, Orono, Trenton, Southwest Harbor, Sullivan, and West Tremont and Wiscasset.

ELLSWORTH – If there is any music from the 19th Century classics you might find people singing in the shower, it could well be a catchy song from one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas.

Whether it is a signature song of the character “poor little” Buttercup or the “three little maids from school” from “The Mikado,” or of Captain Corcoran, the “well-bred captain of the Pinafore,” or Sir Joseph, the admittedly unskilled “ruler of the Queen’s ‘Navee,’ ” from “H.M.S. Pinafore,” it is the kind of memorable music that can go around in your head to the point of distraction.

“Gilbert and Sullivan is almost a cult,” says UMaine music professor and baritone Lud Hallman of Bangor. “People either love it or hate it.”

Hallman, who worked with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society in Waterville for a half dozen productions, has been part of the production team for the last two years with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Hancock County. He is music director for the society’s upcoming 30th anniversary production of two operettas, “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “Trial by Jury.”

The cast and orchestra include amateur singers and instrumentalists from the coast, and several from the University of Maine in Orono and the University of Maine System offices in Bangor. The two operettas are being performed Jan. 27-Jan. 29 and Feb. 3-6 at The Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth.

Geoffrey Shovelton, a former principal tenor with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company of London (Gilbert & Sullivan’s original venue), is artistic director, and singer and dancer Deborah Clague is assistant director and choreographer.

“H.M.S. Pinafore” is one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s best known and loved comic operas. It is set aboard the ship Pinafore, and tells the tale of class structure and impossible loves. “Trial by Jury,” a short parody of the British judiciary system, will be the opening act.

David Wilson, director of facilities for the University of Maine System, has participated off and on with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Hancock for 20 years and has sung many lead roles. The Stockton Springs tenor has two lead parts this year, the Learned Judge in “Trial by Jury,” and Captain Corcoran in “H.M.S. Pinafore.”

Wilson likes Gilbert & Sullivan for several reasons.

“I’m a fan of British humor, anyway, and that’s a pretty good example of British humor,” he says. “I really like singing and it’s good fun stuff to sing and it does involve acting, which is also fun.”

He calls the characteristically irreverent themes of lyricist William Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan “crazy, fun operettas.”

Hallman, who also is music director and conductor of the UMaine Oratorio Society and has served as music director and conductor for dozens of productions, from Broadway musicals to opera at both amateur and professional levels, has carried lead roles in many Gilbert & Sullivan productions. He finds Sullivan’s music an important standard. “I think Gilbert & Sullivan operas are an extremely important part of the repertoire,” he says.

Important or just fun, the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas parody British royalty, aristocracy, government and pomposity. Many of their themes still apply aptly to society, Hallman says – much like a 19th Century version of today’s witty musical comedy troupe, The Capitol Steps, which jabs at Washington, D.C. politicians with hilarious accuracy.

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Hancock County was formed in 1976 by a group of local Gilbert & Sullivan aficionados as a way to entice more people to come to the theater. It has presented Gilbert & Sullivan every season since then, usually in winter and reprised in the summer for summer visitors. This year’s Jan. 27-29 and Feb. 3-5 Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18, adults; $15, seniors; and $9 students. Tickets may be ordered from The Grand at (207) 667-9500, or via the Internet at www.grandonline.org/. This year’s summer performance is scheduled July 13 through July 16.

In addition to Wilson, cast members for “Trial by Jury” include recent UMaine graduate Abra Iwanko of Orono, Lisa Blanchette of Sullivan, her father David Blanchette of Orland, Jason Smith of Bar Harbor, Irv Hodgkin of Ellsworth, Todd Beckerman of Southwest Harbor, Jennifer Chalout of Herman, Bethany Van Gorder of West Tremont and Anna Sproule of Trenton.

The cast for “H.M.S. Pinafore” includes David Wilson, Steve Elliott of North Penobscot, Zack Field, Roland Dube and Bill Williams of Bangor, Todd Beckerman of Southwest Harbor, Lindsay Wilson of Ellsworth, Sandi Blanchette of Orland and Debra Hangge of Ellsworth. University of Maine student musicians playing in the orchestra include Nathaniel Kellogg of Orono, Joshua King of Wiscasset and Andrew Sullivan of Caribou. UMaine New Media major Nyssa Gaffney-Kessell of Blue Hill is a soprano in the chorus.

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