Interview: A Q & A with Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ Producer and Cast: Part One: Maureen Rogers and Tania Rosa Bindhoff-Frieswyk

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Laurel Mill Playhouse is presenting Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore from April 28-May 21, 2017 at the Laurel Mill Playhouse, 508 Main Street, Laurel MD. H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It opened at the Opera Comique in London on 25 May 1878 and ran for 571 performances, which was the second-longest run of any musical theatre piece up to that time. H.M.S. Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourth operatic collaboration and their first international sensation.

Maureen Rogers. Photo courtesy of Laurel Mill Playhouse.

We had a chance to get Maureen Rogers, Artistic Director and Public Liaison of LMP and Producer of the show and cast member, Tania Rosa Bindhoff-Frieswyk who plays Josephine to answer several questions about the upcoming production.  Here’s what they had to say.

Why did you choose to do HMS Pinafore?

Maureen Rogers: I love the music from the show and is different from any other musicals that we have done recently. Marvin Rogers, President of LMP and my husband has always wanted LMP to do Gilbert and Sullivan. My high school did Gilbert and Sullivan every year. I think the music in HMSP is most recognizable.

Can you briefly tell us the plot?

M.R.: The story takes place aboard the ship HMS Pinafore. The captain’s daughter, Josephine, is in love with a lower-class sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, although her father intends her to marry Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. She abides by her father’s wishes at first, but Sir Joseph’s advocacy of the equality of humankind encourages Ralph and Josephine to overturn conventional social order. They declare their love for each other and eventually plan to elope. The captain discovers this plan, but, as in many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, a surprise disclosure changes things dramatically near the end of the story.

You have worked with Michael Hartsfield before.  Why did you choose him as your director?

M.R.: He is our most experienced as well as an award-winning Director, and he can, without fail, make a success of any show. And most importantly, actors love working with him!

Note: Hartsfield is also scheduled to do set, light and sound design.

Who is in your cast?

  • SIR JOSEPH PORTER (First Lord of the Admiralty): Gene Valendo
  • CAPTAIN CORCORAN (Commanding H.M.S. Pinafore): Matthew Frieswyk
  • TOM TUCKER (Midshipmite): Emily Bruun
  • RALPH RACKSTRAW (Able Seaman): Gary Eurice
  • DICK DEADEYE (Able Seaman): Jeff Dunne
  • BILL BOBSTAY (Boatswain): Bob Cicconetti
  • BOB BECKET (Boatswain’s Mate—Carpenter): Anwar Al-Mallah
  • JOSEPHINE (the Captain’s Daughter): Tania Rosa Bindhoff-Frieswyk
  • HEBE (Sir Joseph’s First Cousin): Barb Gasper
  • LITTLE BUTTERCUP (Mrs. Cripps) (A Portsmouth Bumboat Woman): Emma Jensen

FIRST LORD’S SISTERS, COUSINS, AUNTS:

  • Brianna Weston
  • Victoria Rose Brown
  • Julie Rogers
  • Victoria (Tori) Simmons

SAILORS, MARINES:

  • Marge McGugan
  • Lori Bruun
  • Michael Eurice
  • Brandon Seehoffer

Who is your Musical Director?  Are you using live music? Who is doing costume design?

M.R.: Mimi Kuhn McGuiness is our super talented Musical Director and will be playing the keyboard for the show. Marge McGugan is the Costume Designer and will be assisted by Carol Mead Cartmell and Lynn Kellner.

What made you audition for this show?

Tania Rosa Bindhoff-Frieswky. Photo courtesy of Laurel Mill Playhouse.

Tani Rosa Bindhoff: I’ve loved HMS Pinafore ever since I saw a production that the Young Victorian Theatre Company did years ago. The men’s’ choruses are just phenomenal, and it’s an all-around great show! The deciding factor for me in auditioning was actually the number of male roles in the show.  I love performing alongside my husband Matthew Frieswyk, (Captain Corcoran) and I knew that this would be a good opportunity for us to do something together. He and I met in college while working on an opera, and it’s something that we’ve always enjoyed being able to share.

What is your background in musical theater?  Gilbert and Sullivan?

T.R.B.: Back in the day, I started out doing musical theatre in Bowie. I was in a few productions at 2nd Star and also with a few local churches; then I started taking classes at Anne Arundel Community College and got hooked on opera. My resume is about 50/50 between musical theatre and opera.
I’ve done a little bit of everything here and there, from Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber to Mozart and Verdi. As far as Gilbert and Sullivan goes, I’ve sung a few roles here and there (Casildain in Gondoliers and Mabel in Pirates of Penzance) and stage managed “Mikado”.

What did you know about Gilbert and Sullivan and HMS Pinafore before you started the show?

T.R.B:  I’ve sung and stage managed G&S before, and the biggest thing that I always take away is that the shows are just a lot of fun. They’re silly and goofy, but they have memorable music and they’re just fun to do. I was familiar with Pinafore from having seen it years prior. That being said, I only really knew the male choruses!

What have you learned by working on this show?

T.R.B.: To trust myself more and to just relax! I’m a very self-critical person, and that gets in my way. At the end of the day, I’m doing this because it’s fun and I enjoy it. I’ve had to remind myself a lot to just trust my instincts, trust my technique, and stop worrying about it! If I get out of my own way, things tend to happen the way that they’re supposed to happen.

What do you like about working on the show?

T.R.B.: This cast is so much fun! We all come from very different backgrounds and have all sorts of different personalities.  We have an absolute blast. We’ve developed a good sense of camaraderie during the rehearsal process, and it’s wonderful. I also really enjoy working with my husband, and this role is very special to him-his grandfather played Captain Corcoran years ago. So, this is a very meaningful experience for him.

What have been the challenges and how did you deal with them?

T.R.B.: Memorizing this dialogue has been the most difficult part of the process! In opera, all of your dialogue is sung (recitative); even though I started out in musical theatre and should be used to memorizing dialogue by now, I’ve gotten so accustomed to everything being sung. Note cards are my friends! (At least this show is in English, which makes it a lot easier!)

What role are you playing and why do you like/dislike the character?

T.R.B.: I’m singing Josephine, who is Captain Corcoran’s daughter. I like Josephine because she’s very real. In her aria at the beginning of act II, we see just how real she is, as compared to say Mabel (Pirates of Penzance); Josephine really wants to follow her heart, but she’s got a bit of a classic tug of war going on between her heart and her brain. I think that all of us can relate to that. We’ve all had situations in our lives where we’ve wanted to do something, but logic is telling us to do something else.

Can you tell us a little about the character?

T.R.B.: Josephine is the captain’s daughter, who has fallen in love with a common sailor onboard the HMS Pinafore. She’s supposed to marry Admiral Joseph Porter, but wants nothing to do with him. Josephine only has eyes for Ralph Rackstraw, so she has to make a pretty big decision: either to marry Sir Joseph and live a luxurious life, or to defy both her father and social ranks and instead marry a British tar.

Where do you live?  What do you do for a living or where do you go to school?

T.R.B.: I live in Catonsville, and currently work for Aerotek as a Business Operations Associate. I also cantor at St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore. I went to Towson University for my undergraduate degree (BS in Music), but I’m pursuing a second bachelor’s right now through UMUC in criminal justice.

H.M.S. Pinafore plays Friday, April 28th-Sunday May 21, 2017. Friday and Saturday evening performances at 8 PM and two Sunday performances on May 14 and 21 at 2:00 PM at Laurel Mill Playhouse-508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 617-9906, or purchase them online.

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