Harmony Players to present ‘light opera’

Submitted photoMembers of the Harmony Players will perform in Anderson University’s Byrum Hall next Saturday in an effort to help AU’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance raise funds to replace some equipment for the department.

ANDERSON — On July 13, the Harmony Players will perform in Anderson University’s Byrum Hall with a crew of alumni in hopes of giving back to the university.

After utilizing the space to practice for their initial performance of “H.M.S. Pinafore” in Muncie, Linda Priest Rodden, director and musical director of the opera, said she discovered AU’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance was in the process of raising money to replace their practice risers.

“I (said), ‘Gosh, you guys are helping us so much, we have a lot of alumni in the group, why don’t we see if we can do a performance for you and give you all the ticket sale money?’ So that’s really how that started,” Priest Rodden said.

While the group’s Muncie performance took place in March, AU alumnus Cameron Gamble said he is excited to reprise his role as Ralph Rackstraw, a young sailor “with big dreams,” to help his alma mater.

Gamble is also looking forward to returning to the stage where he performed in his first opera during his senior year at AU.

“I was a computer science major, so I wasn’t actually in all the musicals like the musical theater majors were, but there was a big production of ‘Regina’ and they had a lot of smaller roles and they needed to fit people in,” Gamble said.

Since then, Gamble said theater has remained a hobby of his. He’s been in several performances, including one other opera with the Harmony Players before obtaining a lead role in “H.M.S. Pinafore.”

In March, the group practiced once a week until it was time for the opera. For this upcoming performance, however, there will only be one rehearsal held on the night before the show to refresh the cast’s memory.

Gamble said this makes him a little nervous, but after having some time off from the “hustle and bustle” of weekly rehearsals, he has retained each aspect of his role surprisingly well.

For Priest Rodden, the lack of rehearsals speaks to the faith she has in the actors.

“These folks, they’re very good," Priest Rodden said. "A lot of people who do theater would think, ‘Oh no, that would be so scary,’ but it really isn’t. They’re so good and I know we’re going to be ready.”

This opera should not intimidate prospective audience members either, Priest Rodden said. Instead, it is more of a “light opera.”

“The plot line is easy to understand,” Priest Rodden said. “There is spoken dialogue at different places, so that helps move the plot along. If you don’t hear the lyrics of a piece of music just right, it’s not as if you are going to be lost in the story line — and it’s funny.”

Gamble agreed, saying that when it comes to “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “they just hadn’t invented the word ‘musical’ yet.”

“It’s an older opera, but I feel that a lot of the themes are still relevant to people today,” Gamble said. “With the love triangle at the center, you know people love (romantic comedy), that’s going to forever be a beloved trope, so I would say it’s just a little more music than your average musical, but it’s just as enjoyable.”

Even for those who aren’t frequent theatergoers, Gamble said attending the performance is a great way to show support for the community and the local university.

“It’s giving back to the college and people in the community,” Gamble said. “The college is a big part of that. There’s a lot of service that comes out of the college in helping the community, so any way that you can give back is much appreciated.”

Follow Brooke Kemp on Twitter @brookemkemp or contact her at 765-640-4861 or brooke.kemp@heraldbulletin.com.

If you go

What: "H.M.S. Pinafore"

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 13

Where: Byrum Hall at Anderson University

Cost: $15 for attendees age 12 and older; $10 for those under 12 or college students with student IDs