Skylight Music Theatre
Press Release

Skylight Music Theatre Announces Cast, Creative Team for Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse

Skylight Collaborates with Milwaukee Opera Theatre for Gilbert & Sullivan Gothic Melodrama. Performances January 3-19,2020 in the Studio Theatre

By - Dec 4th, 2019 10:05 am

Milwaukee, Wis. (December 4, 2019) — Skylight Music Theatre today announced the cast and creative team for Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse, presented January 3-19, 2020 in collaboration with Milwaukee Opera Theatre. Skylight celebrates its long history of producing the works of W.S. Gilbert (book and lyrics) and Arthur Sullivan (music) with an imaginatively reinvigorated production of this classic gothic operetta. Ruddigore will be performed in a special, limited run in the Studio Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

A satire of the Victorian melodrama genre, the world of Ruddigore is rife with ghosts, witches, curses, and (of course) mistaken identity. In true “topsy-turvy” Gilbert & Sullivan fashion, comic misunderstandings lead to a jungle of confusion and delusion – and a healthy dose of Gilbert’s ingenious wordplay. Featuring one of Sullivan’s finest scores, Skylight’s production of Ruddigore promises to be an original take on an under-performed gem from the G&S canon. Jill Anna Ponasik and Catie O’Donnell will co-direct.

A Reimagined A Cappella Approach

Ponasik described the production as “a (mostly) a cappella adaptation. The storytellers include a quartet who also act as our vocal ‘orchestra,’” she said. “The singers will be doing most of the musical heavy lifting, but they’ll be joined by a few misfit instruments including accordion, celeste, viola, and guitar. This allows us to create a constantly shifting aural texture, and an extremely nimble production.”

Ruddigore will use “the melodrama of silent film to convey Gilbert’s topsy-turvy point of view in which society’s arbitrary absolutes are turned upside down: the hero becomes evil, the villain becomes good, and ghosts discover they may never have died in the first place,” said Ponasik.

Ponasik recently directed Skylight’s acclaimed productions of Oklahoma! (2019) and Carmina Burana (2019). Co-director O’Donnell previously joined forces with Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT) on The Mikado and Candide. Tim Rebers, last seen onstage at Skylight in Kiss Me, Kate and Carmina Burana, will music direct. James Zager, who choreographed Skylight’s productions of Oklahoma! (2019), The Tales of Hoffmann (2018), and La Cenerentola (2014), returns to choreograph Ruddigore.

The cast includes many Skylight and MOT favorites, including Doug Clemons as Robin Oakapple/Ruthven Murgatroyd; Karen Estrada as Old Adam Goodheart; Susan Robinson as Rose Maybud; and Diane Lane as Mad Margaret. Much of the Ruddigore cast and creative team were also a part of MOT’s irresistible production of The Mikado (2015 and 2017).

Patter Songs Galore

Ruddigore has not one, but three “patter” songs. Gilbert & Sullivan are well known for these songs with rapid-fire lyrics such as “I am the very model of a modern Major-General” from The Pirates of Penzance. Patter songs in Ruddigore include “My Eyes are Fully Open” — one of the most challenging songs in the Savoy repertoire, and a piece that’s impossible not to hum on the way out of the theater. Ponasik added that many audiences will have heard it before — it was used as “The Speed Test” in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Other Ruddigore songs include “When the Night Wind Howls” and “Cheerily Carols the Lark.” Ruddigore is the tenth of the 14 operettas written together by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Celebrating its 60th year this season, Skylight’s first show in 1959 was a musical revue titled An Evening with Gilbert & Sullivan, based on the life and work of the team. They have produced a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta regularly over the last 60 years. Ruddigore was last produced at Skylight in 1978.

“It is absolutely spot-on that the next show in our landmark, 60th anniversary season is by Gilbert and Sullivan,” said Skylight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Unger. “Skylight was born and raised on G & S, having produced 55 of their works over our sixty years. Of the 409 productions Skylight has put on, 14 percent have been Gilbert, Sullivan, or both. In fact, in the 1960-61 season alone, Skylight presented nearly one-half of the entire G & S canon! Ruddigore, with the characteristic, innovative MOT/Skylight spin, promises to be clever, by definition, but also revelatory in execution.”

RUDDIGORE CREATIVE TEAM

Co-Directors…………………………………………………….Jill Anna Ponasik and Catie O’Donnell

Music Director…………………………………………………………………………………Tim Rebers

Choreographer………………………………………………………………………………James Zager

Set and Properties Designer……………………………………………………………….Shen Heckel

Costume Designer……………………………………………………………………………Molly Mason

Lighting Designer………………………………………………………………………..Nathan Scheuer

Stage Manager………………………………………………………………………..Sydonia Lucchesi

Dramaturg……………………………………………………………………………….Daniel J. Brylow

RUDDIGORE CAST

Robin Oakapple/Ruthven Murgatroyd……………………………………………………Doug Clemons

Richard Dauntless……………………………………………………………………….Adam Qutaishat

Sir Despard Murgatroyd, of Ruddigore………………………………………………….Shayne Steliga

Old Adam Goodheart ………………………………………………………………………Karen Estrada

Rose Maybud………………………………………………………………………………Susan Robinson

Mad Margaret……………………………………………………………………………………Diane Lane

Dame Hannah…………………………………………………………………………………….Sandi Lash

Ensemble……………………………..Katie Gruell, Edward Lupella, Megan McCarthy, Tim Rebers

RUDDIGORE or THE WITCH’S CURSE

Friday, January 3 – Sunday, January 19, 2020

Music by Arthur Sullivan

Book and Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert

Directed by Jill Anna Ponasik and Catie O’Donnell

Recommended for ages 8 and up

CREATIVE TEAM BIOGRAPHIES

Jill Anna Ponasik (Co-Stage Director) is in her 11th season as producing artistic director of Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT). Select past productions include: Carmina Burana (MOT/Skylight Music Theatre/Chant Claire Chamber Choir/Danceworks Performance Company), Zie Magic Flute (MOT/Quasimondo Physical Theatre), Doc Danger and the Danger Squad (MOT), Svadba (MOT/Wild Space Dance Company), The Tales of Hoffmann (MOT/Skylight Music Theatre), A Chorus Line (MOT/Theater RED), Handel’s Bestiary (MOT/Danceworks Performance Company/Lynden Sculpture Garden), The Kreutzer Sonata (Renaissance Theatreworks), Song from the Uproar (MOT/Wild Space Dance Company), 1776 (MOT), Thank You. NEXT! (MOT), The Story of My Life (MOT/Boswell Book Company), Master Class (MOT/Milwaukee Chamber Theatre), The Mikado (MOT), among others.

Catie O’Donnell (Co-Stage Director) is a theater director, producer and educator. Favorite directing credits include The Mikado and Candide with MOT, the world premiere workshop of Hephaestus, and regional premieres of Striking 12, Arlington, Hostage Song, 35mm and Nevermore with Music Theater Madison, The Love That Changed My Life, Soul Food and In A Clearing with Forward Theater in Madison, A Klingon Christmas Carol with Commedia Beauregard in Chicago, associate director for The Belle of Amherst with Renaissance Theatreworks, and assistant director for The Marriage of Figaro with Skylight. She heads the theatre department at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.

Tim Rebers (Music Director) has performed at Skylight in 10 productions (most recently, Carmina Burana and Kiss Me, Kate), two cabarets, and the first Salon Series recital (with wife, Maggie at the piano). He is the current Artistic Director for the newly created Brew City Opera which launched in August 2019 presenting Carmen in Tim’s newly created chamber version (he also sang Don José). He has music directed for Acacia Theatre, Concordia University, and Wisconsin Lutheran College (most recently conducting She Loves Me). Tim’s first full length opera, Thank You. NEXT! was commissioned and premiered by Milwaukee Opera Theatre in 2016.

James Zager (Choreographer) is an Associate Artist with Milwaukee Opera Theatre. As choreographer his credits include Oklahoma!, The Tales of Hoffmann and La Cenerentola at Skylight. MOT: Doc Danger and the Danger Squad, A Chorus Line, The Mikado, Fairy Queen, Fortuna The Time Bender vs. The Schoolgirls of Doom, Iolanthe, Amahl And The Night Visitors. Chamber Theatre: Master Class. Milwaukee Rep: Man of La Mancha, I Love A Piano, Devil’s Music. Florentine Opera: Die Fledermaus, Sister Carrie. In Tandem: Ernest In Love, Scrooge In Rouge. Milwaukee Metro Voices: Fortuna, 80’s Movie. Zager has been choreographing, directing, and acting in professional theaters for the past 25 years.

PRINCIPAL CAST BIOGRAPHIES

Doug Clemons (Robin Oakapple/Ruthven Murgatroyd) is regularly seen on local stages including Skylight Music Theatre, Fireside Theatre, First Stage, Northern Sky Theater, and Third Avenue Playhouse. Regional and concert credits include the New York Musical Theater Festival, Chicago Musical Theater Festival, Utah Light Opera, Florentine Opera, Racine Symphony Orchestra, Door County Opera Festival, and backup for Michael Bublé. Past Gilbert & Sullivan includes Iolanthe and The Mikado (MOT), Trial by Jury (Choral Arts Society), and Pirates of Penzance (Utah Light Opera).

Karen Estrada (Old Adam Goodheart) has been seen at Skylight in Sunday in the Park with George, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, eight years with KidsWrites and as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. With Milwaukee Opera Theatre she was in A Chorus Line and 1776. She has worked with Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Chamber Theater, Next Act, and First Stage Milwaukee among others. She is a three-time alumna of Disney on Classic in Japan and Taiwan. She recently directed On the Wings of a Mariposa at First Stage.

Diane Lane (Mad Margaret) last appeared on Skylight’s stage as Nicklausse in The Tales of Hoffmann. Other favorite roles with Skylight include Isabella in The Italian Girl in Algiers, The Fox in The Little Prince, Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals, and Grace in Annie. Diane has also performed with companies such as Glimmerglass Opera, Central City Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Opera Omaha, Orlando Opera, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, and Stadttheater Biel in Switzerland.

Susan Robinson (Rose Maybud) has been seen as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Cosette in Les Misérables, and Antonia/Dapertutto in The Tales of Hoffmann. Other Skylight credits include The Pirates of Penzance, The Sound of Music, Sunday in the Park with George, The Rivals, H.M.S. Pinafore, and The Marriage of Figaro. Other highlights include The Mikado and Candide with Milwaukee Opera Theatre and The Fantasticks and Carnival with In Tandem Theatre. She is an Encouragement Award Winner from the Wisconsin District Metropolitan Opera Auditions.

PERFORMANCE INFORMATION

Performances of Ruddigore are Friday, January 3 through Sunday, January 19, 2020 in the Studio Theatre, Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee.

BOX OFFICE

Tickets available at the Broadway TheatreCenter Box Office, 158 N. Broadway, by calling (414) 291-7800, or visiting www.skylightmusictheatre.org

  • NOTE: Please let the Box Office know if accessible seating is needed, or if patrons will have a wheelchair or walker.
  • Box Office hours are noon – 6 p.m. The Box Office window is also open two hours prior to performances.
  • Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more by calling (414) 291-7800 (noon – 6 p.m.) and asking for Kelley, or by emailing kelleya@skylightmusictheatre.org
  • If you have ADA needs please contact the Box Office at Tickets@skylightmusictheatre.org or (414) 291-7800.

For more information visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org, email info@skylightmusictheatre.org

PARKING VOUCHERS

Purchase $5 discounted parking vouchers from the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office for use in the Historic Third Ward parking garage at 212 N. Milwaukee Street (one block east and one block north). Vouchers are valid between 5 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. for evening performances only. Voucher sales are not available during intermission. No refunds.

Skylight Music Theatre’s 2019-2020 Season is sponsored by the United Performing Arts Fund, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and CAMPAC, the Milwaukee County Arts Fund.

MOT received a grant for ‘Ruddigore’ from Supporters of Opera Singers.

About Milwaukee Opera Theatre

Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT) was founded in 1998 by Charissa York Glazner. Today, MOT produces at least four projects each season, ranging from the classic to the contemporary, with a special affinity for locally sourced work. MOT considers itself Milwaukee’s micro-brewery for opera, proudly producing small batches of high quality, local lyric theatre.

About Skylight Music Theatre

Skylight Music Theatre celebrates its 60th anniversary during the 2019-2020 season. Skylight’s mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition.

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