Renegade's 'Road Season' starts with Gilbert and Sullivan

The first show out of the gate for Renegade's "Road Season" is a big one, on a big stage. It's the fifth Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera the company has put on, "Pirates of Penzance," and it will open Friday, March 4, at the Scottish Right Mason...

The first show out of the gate for Renegade's "Road Season" is a big one, on a big stage. It's the fifth Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera the company has put on, "Pirates of Penzance," and it will open Friday, March 4, at the Scottish Right Masonic Temple in Duluth.

Renegade engaged in a road season for 2005 after it lost its performance space downtown in 2004. While searching for a permanent home, it is using what space it can find.

Jill Hoffman, one of the talented trio which puts on the Gilbert and Sullivan performances, says the production is unusual, too, in that it has a larger cast than previous shows. This year's cast of 16 doubles last year's cast.

"But it's a good thing we have 16," Hoffman said, noting the size of the Masonic temple stage and the space that must be filled with sound.

The whole thing, including being the first out of the gate on the "Road Season," is a coincidence working out well. "We didn't plan it that way," she said.


In fact, "Pirates" was planned before any of those problems were known. Immediately after last year's "Princess Ida," Hoffman, Mark Overland and Chris Nollet decided to take on "Pirates." Hoffman is the producer, Overland the musical director and Nollet the director.

It's brilliant music, "but very difficult," Hoffman said.

The show, which is 125 years old this year, is one of the most popular the group did. It has an interesting history. After "HMS Pinafore," Gilbert and Sullivan wanted to tour America with the show, only to find that pirated productions were already running, copyright law being poor here. So they made the next show about pirates and opened it in the United States before it opened in London, to beat the real-life pirates.

The complicated plot of "Pirates" involves a boy apprenticed to pirates, a birthday on a leap year, love and the very model of a modern major general, who provides the title to "the best known patter song of all time," according to Renegade promoters.

Hoffman said the turmoil with Renegade's location didn't deter the trio.

"We were determined to continue the tradition of having one Gilbert and Sullivan a year," she said.

The initial plan was to put it on at the Norshor Theatre, but in the midst of changing management there, Renegade discovered the facility was too booked up to allow rehearsal space.

Very quickly, a cast member, Roger Morris, who is also a Mason, worked out the solution.


"I only lost maybe one night's sleep," Hoffman joked. She said Morris was "instrumental to getting us the space."

Hoffman and the cast and crew were pleased to discover century-old backdrops, two of which matched the play, alleviating concerns about the set with much of Renegade's gear in storage and a stage not their own.

"It was like it was meant to be," Hoffman said.

The large space will still challenge the actors, though, she said.

The trio has worked together on all five of the Renegade Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Nollet is in his sixth production of "Pirates" personally.

Overland also directs the choirs at Denfeld High School, and Hoffman says he's great working with the singers, especially those with less experience. "Mark is so patient and encouraging for them," she said.

He also does the patter songs. He's playing the Major General.

Nollet is tackling the hero, Frederick, and Hoffman plays his love interest, Mabel.


The remainder of the cast includes Jerry Bacon, Christa Schulz, Tracy Close, Cathy Berggren, Elizabeth Nelson, Leslie Hoffman, Morris, Alan Zeppa and Kristin Kleinke, all Renegade veterans. Newcomers are Frank Bucar, Dick Dolezal, Pat War and Mary Jo Uhlenkott. Ben Gagne will accompany, and Hoffman was particularly excited about the costumes created by Lauri Cushing. The result is "period costumes in a period venue," Hoffman said.

She says the rehearsal schedule has been a bit longer to accommodate the challenges, and the cast and crew is ready to sail with Pirates.

The show runs March 4-6 and 10-13. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, show times are 7:30 p.m. Sundays offer 2 p.m. matinees. Evening tickets are $15 adults, $12 students and seniors. Matinee tickets are $12, with a two-for-one offer for students. The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple Auditorium is located at 4 W. Second St.

Call 722-6775 or visit for more information.

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