H.M.S. Pinafore Cast

The Principals

Tom Berg – Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B.

By day, Tom teaches constitutional law and intellectual property law as a professor and former dean at the University of Saint Thomas School of Law.  Like many other lawyers over the decades, he has an affinity for the absurdly logical mind of the failed barrister W.S. Gilbert.  Tom’s thirst for attention has been unquenched by performing in front of students in the classroom, and he joined the GSVLOC in 2008, appearing since then in several full productions and summer concerts, including turns as the Notary in The Grand Duke, Pish Tush in The Mikado, and the Boatswain in H.M.S. Pinafore.  He is married to Maureen Kane Berg, who he met in the cast of a student musical comedy production in law school.  He and Maureen co-directed an all-lawyer musical comedy troupe, the Public Offenders, in Chicago; he co-composed the music for Maureen’s musical comedy, Got It Made, which has had two successful Twin Cities runs; and they are at work on another musical.  Their other major collaborative productions are two sons, Brendan and Aidan.


Waldyn Benbenek – Captain Corcoran

Waldyn has been doing this for a really long time.  His children believe he came ashore with the Pilgrims singing patter songs.  In fact, he did spend much of his youth memorizing Gilbert and Sullivan, though his parents refer to those as the “lost years,” and his siblings refuse to talk about it.  He managed to suppress his tendency to “patter-chorus” during his younger theatrical life.  Upon arriving in the Twin Cities during the second half of the 20th century, he discerned the signals of an underground subculture with operetta tendencies.  They met secretly in a Kenwood basement to form the GSVLOC.  Over the decades, Waldyn has served the company in many capacities, and played in many roles, mostly scoundrels and father figures.  He has also appeared around town with many fly-by-night companies in several questionable venues.  His secret identity is mild mannered computer programmer and husband of Dr. Mary Mescher Benbenek with whom he gets to dance on stage this year.  They have three children who went through a traumatic period when they learned that to “sing choruses in public” is not normal.


Kai Brewster – Ralph Rackstraw

“It’s uncertain how Kai found us.  In fact, we’re fairly certain he’s unclear about how he got here himself.  Taking the fact that a set of bunk beds appeared about the same time he did, we also assume he’s been sleeping here, though whether he prefers the top or bottom bunk remains a debate, since the custodial staff finds both immaculately and identically made each morning.  This has led to additional speculation that there may actually be two of him.  Similar accounts have been relayed to us by Theatre in the Round, GoodWorks Community Theater, The Guthrie Theater, Luther College Theatre / Dance and Opera, Blue Water Theater Company, and local rock band General B and the Wiz.  Each institution has informed us that, at the end of the run, we will find he has disappeared as miraculously as he appeared.  Please feel free to take as much comfort in this as we do.”


Ryan Johnson – Dick Deadeye

This is Ryan’s first GSVLOC production.  He first learned of H.M.S Pinafore by watching Sideshow Bob sing the entire score to Bart on an episode of The Simpsons.  Proudly representing Saint Paul’s west siiiide, Ryan likes to brag about being the former production runner (gopher) for Cirque du Soleil and being fearless in teaching middle school choir.  He also teaches private piano and guitar and has a Master’s in Education from Hamline University.  Where else has he performed?  Ryan was in a musical production of Alice in Wonderland in fifth grade and played Horace Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe in opera workshop in college.  Sometimes he puts on tights and sings at the Renaissance Festival too. Lastly, he has two cats: Sylvie Cardamom and Piccolo Pip Pierre Samhain Geronimo Johnson.


Stephen Zehr – Boatswain

This is Stephen’s first production with the GSVLOC and he is thrilled to be a part of this delightful group of people.  For thirty-two years Steve (as he likes to be called) has been working full time in church music and is currently the Director of Worship & Fine Arts at Faith Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka and the Director of Faith Community Theatre. He has been seen in the Bloomington Civic Theater’s production of 42nd Street as Bert Barry as well as secondary parts in Fiddler on the Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Oklahoma!, and The Music Man with Eagan Community Theater.  Steve spent twelve years with the Gold Coast Opera Company performing three shows a year such as Die Fledermaus, The Merry Widow, Carmen, Madame Butterfly, H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, Kismet, The Man of LaMancha, New Moon, Oklahoma! and many more.  He was also seen in several regional television ads in the South Florida area and has sung all around the country in a variety of venues and on national television programs.  Steve has been married to his wife Susan for thirty-two years and has two wonderful daughters who are pursuing their own careers in the entertainment and theatre industry.


John Orbison – Carpenter’s Mate

John is especially pleased to be in H.M.S. Pinafore as it is the first time, in his nine GSVLOC stage performances, that he has appeared as a character with a name, as opposed to “Pirate” or “Yeoman.”  Never mind that the name is never actually spoken in the show.  He is grateful for the support of Tom and Ann, the upper crust adult G&S fans he once nuss’d as two tender babes without ever mixing them up (as far as he knows), Jean Van Heel (GSVLOC accompanist), one of the many sisters (outnumbering his cousins and aunts) with whom he shared childhood’s happy hours, and Holly MacDonald, GSVLOC alto, the figurehead of his ship of life, the bright beacon that guides him into his port of happiness.


Victoria Valencour – Josephine

Oh, Bliss!  Oh, Rapture!  Victoria is overjoyed to return to the GSVLOC as Josephine, the Captain’s daughter, in this year’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore.  Some of her favorite past roles with G&S include Edith in The Pirates of Penzance, Ms. Partlett in The Sorcerer, and Pitti-Sing in The Mikado. Victoria has also enjoyed working with Skylark Opera in The Vagabond King, New Breath Productions at the Fringe Festival, and many Christmas productions on the Centennial Showboat.  She graduated from the University of Minnesota, School of Music in Vocal Performance and received her teaching degree through Saint Mary’s University.  Victoria currently teaches 7th and 8th grade Math and Reading, as well as maintaining a private voice studio, south of the cities.  She would like to thank the directors, cast, and crew for the opportunity to share this wonderful experience together and with you!  She would also like to thank her family, friends, and cat Wanda for their unconditional love and support throughout her life and especially during this production.


Amanda Weis – Cousin Hebe

Amanda is delighted to be joining the GSVLOC team for a second time – first as a lovesick maiden in Patience, and now as the impeccably fashioned Cousin Hebe.  While she claims this high maintenance role is not a type cast decision – she admits her husband may be of a differing opinion. 😉 When Amanda’s not enjoying the clever compositions of Gilbert and Sullivan or the ingenuity of the cast, she teaches vocal lessons at one of her two vocal studios.  Amanda has also had the privilege to work with such companies as Minneapolis Musical Theatre, The Really Spicy Opera Company, Paul Bunyan Playhouse, Duluth Playhouse, Seasons Players, and Curtain Call Community Theater.  Favorite roles include Sister Amnesia in Nunsense, The Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, Mary Jane in Reefer Madness, and the female role in Five Course Love.  Amanda hopes you enjoy the show! (“… and so do her sisters, and her cousins, and her aunts!”)


Caitlin Wilkey – Buttercup

Caitlin is excited to be performing with the GSVLOC for the first time in the role of Buttercup.  This is Caitlin’s first time back on stage in a few years, and she’s had a lot of fun portraying the character affectionately (she hopes) referred to as “Slutterbutt.”  Caitlin was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, but left the Frozen North to get her degree in Musical Theater Performance from the University of Northern Colorado.  One bachelor’s degree later, she returned to Alaska … One baby later, she returned to school for her second degree in Elementary Education.  Her second degree down, and baby number two on the way, Caitlin left her hometown again.  She’s been enjoying the warm southern climate of Minnesota for four and a half years now. Caitlin has spent the last three years teaching First Grade at Sand Creek Elementary in Coon Rapids.  With two children and a teaching career, performance opportunities have been few and far between, but Caitlin would like to thank the GSVLOC for giving her a chance to “get back in the game” with H.M.S. Pinafore.  Enjoy the show!


The Chorus

Joe Allen

Joe is a recent graduate of Hamline University, where he majored in Theatre Arts, Philosophy, and pursued an Education licensure.  He has been taking a break from things theatrical for the last nine months to establish a productive professional and artistic rhythm; and to plan his upcoming wedding with his beautiful partner of seven years, Heather! Joe is a frequent non-equity performer in the Twin Cities, having participated in a variety of productions since graduation that span the genres and put his varied theatrical talents to task.  He has written music for and performed Shakespeare for Six Elements and Cromulent; danced at the Southern with Collide Theatrical; and worked for the Minnesota Opera as a supernumerary since the debut of their fiftieth season.  Joe is thrilled to be back at work with the GSVLOC in his second production with the company!  As an ardent enthusiast of mind, metaphysics, aesthetics, and video games – he strives to be a jack-of-all trades.  This approach serves him well in his day-job as Office Manager and Training Assistant for Orion Associates.


Mary Mescher Benbenek

Mary has been in the GSLVOC, well, for a long time. Thankfully, rather than pretending to be a seventeen year-old maiden (getting more difficult), this year she gets to perform as a middle-aged sister to her “brother”, Joseph Porter K.C.B.  You will find her on stage most often in the company of her “sisters” in the show.  She is married to Waldyn Benbenek, the captain of the Pinafore but, damme, she doesn’t take orders at home if you please.


Jim Brooks

Jim has had the pleasure and privilege of performing with the GSVLOC chorus for the past twenty-two years.  This is his second time through H.M.S. Pinafore and he has performed in all of the G&S collaborations, except Trial by Jury (it is just too short for a spring show).  When not doing G&S, Jim is the director of the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers and choreographs dances and calls for Contra Dances.  He also teaches mathematics and many other things at Concordia University – Saint Paul.  Jim’s wife Judy and daughter Julia have been faithful followers of the GSVLOC. They tolerate Jim’s intense rehearsal schedule in the early spring, but always bring friends and acquaintances to enjoy the shows.


Margaret Burton

Maggie is thrilled to be singing in the chorus of the GSVLOC once again.  This is her second appearance with GSVLOC (the first was The Gondoliers, in 2005).  Since earning her Masters’ of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Minnesota, Maggie has had the good fortune to sing with the Dale Warland Singers and the Minnesota Opera Chorus (Anna Bolena).  A many years ago (when she was young and charming), she enjoyed playing Adele in Die Fledermaus, and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, with University of Minnesota Opera Theatre.  More recently, Maggie has enjoyed playing Aunt Eller in Cross Community Players’ production of Oklahoma, and Sister Berthe in Morris Park Players’ production of The Sound of Music.  Maggie performs with the First John Philip Sousa Memorial Band, in which she plays flute and piccolo and is frequently featured as a vocal soloist.  She teaches voice in her home and at St. Barnabas Center for the Arts in Plymouth.


Amanda Carlson

Amanda is pleased to be making her GSVLOC debut in H.M.S. Pinafore, a show for which she has a particular soft-spot, having performed it once before with dear friends at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage, back in 2004. As for the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, Amanda has had the pleasure of working out of this space on two other occasions – first as The Baker’s Wife in Eat Street Players’ production of Into the Woods in early 2013, and then later that year as Director for A New Brain, again with Eat Street Players. When not pursuing theater and music, Amanda is usually found planning events for local organizations, acting as sous chef to her handsome husband, and trying to get her two dogs to behave (it’s never going to happen).


Maia Carnicom

This is Maia’s second show with the GSVLOC, her first being The Grand Duke last year.  She has thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Gilbert and Sullivan with this company!  In the past, Maia has been involved in high school and community theatre in her childhood hometown of Hutchinson, Minnesota.  Some favorite shows she has been a part of are Gilligan’s Island: the Musical, Fiddler on the Roof, and Hello, Dolly!  In her free time, she likes to play video games and spend time with her wonderful husband as they await the birth of their firstborn baby early this fall!


Rick Cedergren

Rick is quite happy to be making his biannual return to the theatrical stage in H.M.S. Pinafore, his first production with the GSVLOC.  He has been a fan of G&S since appearing as Frederick in The Pirates of Penzance while studying at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire.  Following the run of this show, Rick can be seen performing with the VocalEssence Chorus, hucking a disc on the Ultimate Frisbee field at Folwell Park in north Minneapolis, or in Theodore Wirth Park expanding his list of non-traditional methods of commuting to work … if you’ve ever wondered about kayaking to work, trust him, it’s not worth the effort.  In his limited spare time, Rick enjoys planning and playing in his urban homestead (coming soon – chickens!) and dreaming of an agrarian existence.  He would be remiss not to acknowledge and thank his wonderful wife for forgetting the time commitment required during a show and giving the go-ahead to audition.


Dumont Darsey

Dumont is pleased to debut with the GSVLOC this year. Originally from the Northwest Texas desert, he performed as Tevya in Tevya and His Daughters, and Rabbit in Prisoner.  He sang in choir at university as well.  Then he boarded the H.M.S. Pinafore and sailed to the great lands of Minnesota (which may or may not be true).  Since arriving he has been part of a stage reading at the Playwright’s Center and has performed in several murder mystery shows with Mr. Mystery Productions.  When he’s not acting or singing, he’s also a database administrator for a local nonprofit.


Jonathan Flory

The singer from Saint Paul downtown,
      from his condominium high rise
Has come here to bestow on you
      his exquisite tenor sighs.
He teaches code in town,
      professionals young advise,
That singer from Saint Paul downtown
      and his exquisite tenor sighs.

In addition to dabbling in alternate lyrics writing on occasion, Jonathan enjoys performing on the stage in whatever fashion the directors will take him, be that singing, acting, or violining.  Sometimes he also makes up new words to make sure a list of talents all end in “ing.” Jonathan’s first performance upon arriving in the Twin Cities was with this troupe in Ruddigore.  A few of his favorite shows include performing with Table Salt Productions’ original musical, Vampires! Horror!, playing Wally in 1940’s Radio Hour with the Chameleon Theater Circle, and Scaramuccio in Twin Cities Fringe Opera’s production of Ariadne.


Alexander Gerchak

Alexander is excited to make his debut with the GSVLOC! Active in the performance arts since his youth, he has taken part in numerous productions both amateur and professional as an actor, vocalist, dancer, and technician.  Alexander received a degree in Theatre at Hamline University, having graduated in 2013.  Most recently, he has worked as a technician with companies such as Park Square Theatre and the Jungle Theater, and has performed with the Mill City Opera and various student projects.  Additionally, Alexander will be directing a musical one act for the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival.


Mary Gregory

A long-time member of the GSVLOC, Mary is proud to be part of this production of H.M.S. Pinafore, and thrilled with the setting of the operetta on a warship in 1942 Britain.  Not only does the wartime setting give a little more urgency to the romance, but allows for the chorus to interact with a little more freedom than in Victorian England.  Winston Churchill, one of Britain’s great leaders of all times, and a former First Lord of the Admiralty, grew up listening to Gilbert and Sullivan tunes, and attended many of the Savoy operettas.  At the close of 1943, while recovering from a heart attack, he listened to part of a complete set of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and was reported on calling it “one of the happiest hours I have had in these hard days!”  I hope that our presentation of H.M.S. Pinafore will give you some happy hours.  Enjoy!

A joke is a very serious thing. – Winston Churchill


Stephen Hage

Stephen’s lifelong passion for Gilbert and Sullivan began in the eighth grade, when he was cast as Sir Joseph Porter in a middle school production of H.M.S. Pinafore and it has carried him through the years to this, his fifth staging of the operetta.  This also happens to be Stephen’s thirty-fourth appearance in a G&S production … but then, who’s counting! In addition to his work with the GSVLOC, Stephen has also appeared as a supernumerary with Minnesota Opera, in their recent productions of Nabucco, Turandot, Manon Lescaut and  Macbeth, which has given him the opportunity to carry spears, to rough up famous sopranos and to be killed in battle … sometimes several times in the same opera!  By day, Stephen is responsible for Human Resources at Orion Associates, which he does, all the while enjoying far too many cups of coffee.  Stephen dedicates this, and all that he does, to his delightful daughters, Lyndsay, Madeleine and Maya … to his sweet son, Liam … and to his lovely and loving wife, Lara.


Shawn Holt

This is Shawn’s ninth show with the GSVLOC.  She lives in Shoreview with her husband Phil and daughter Amanda. Shawn is pleased to portray Sir Joseph Porter’s sister, Lady Enid Porter Higginsbottom, who serves her country proudly by knitting socks and crocheting flannels for the brave boys aboard the H.M.S. Pinafore.  So, mind your toes coming aboard the ship.  We wouldn’t want anyone going overboard! Please enjoy the show.


Emily Johnson

Emily is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota – Morris, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance.  She has studied classical voice and opera with Melissa Hanson and Teresa Tierney and teaches voice lessons as well.  Emily has studied and performed in the Twin Cities as well as Verona, Italy.  This is her first performance with the GSVLOC.


Bradley Kallhoff

Bradley is super-duper excited to make his GSVLOC debut as Sailor number … as one of the Sailors!!!  He has done many shows at McNally Smith College of Music, Lyric Arts Company and the History Theatre, but none were quite like this Gilbert and Sullivan show he is in now.  Currently, on a little hiatus from his study of vocal performance, he can be seen often at his job in Roseville at the lovely Barnes and Noble.  If you ever hear an announcement with the greeting, “Howdilly diddlee doodle,” you can probably guess that was him.  As you may have guessed, this guy really loves singing, dancing, acting, walks on sunset beaches, smiling, crying, Miki, his wildly supportive family, and also entertaining you. Thank you for letting him.


Wric Larsen

Wric is excited to be making his second appearance on the Howard Conn stage with The GSVLOC!  He grew up listening to this company perform and somehow managed to turn out … reasonably well.  After over a decade of hiatus, Wric returned to the stage three years ago.  In that time he has performed in Mixed Precipitation’s Picnic Operetta twice (last seen in Purcell’s King Arthur as the demon, Grimbald) and has also performed at various community theaters, including Lakeshore Players, Ashland Productions, and Morris Park Players.  In his free time, he likes to daydream about how sweet having free time would be.  He hopes you enjoy this wonderful show and all of the artists that came together to make it happen!


Holly MacDonald

As a long time company member Holly has performed H.M.S. Pinafore too many times to count! Apparently with age comes an exalted rank- previously cast as a “cousin” or “aunt” this year she is Lady Ethelynne Porter Dunbarton, “sister” of Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B.  In real life, however, “love levels all ranks” as she is married to the lowly carpenter’s mate, John Orbison.


Jared Mogen

Jared, an Elementary School Music Teacher from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is still new to Minnesota.  He played King Harold in Morris Park Players Shrek last fall and is grateful for this opportunity to continue involvement in Minneapolis area theater.  Hopefully, he isn’t too rusty, since he hasn’t done any opera since college.  Caricatures have been his staple, as a mustachioed Strongman in Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing and the bullying troll Osmin in The Billy Goats Gruff, and now as a polite Navy Sailor.  His favorite roles in musical theater been Curly in Oklahoma! and Bill Sykes in Oliver!


Charlotte Morrison

Charlotte has been with the GSVLOC since its second rehearsal — ever!  During her tenure as a member of the chorus, she has given birth to a child, raised four sons, and become a grandparent (one granddaughter and five grandsons).  Charlotte has served on the Company’s Board and now has the dubious honour of managing the box office. Her original introduction to G&S was in high school as a member of the jury in Trial by Jury.  She has performed with the GSVLOC in all of the operettas written by Gilbert and Sullivan.  During the off-season she enjoys singing with the Saint Mark’s Cathedral Choral Society, nautical pursuits, and travelling to the far corners of the world.


Eric Pasternack

In real life, Eric is a peripatetic petrophysicist.  Nobody knows what a petrophysicist is, so he does other more recognizable things for fun, such as singing the second tenor part in the GSVLOC chorus and doing whatever the director tells him to do on stage.  Eric’s first G&S experience was in 1963 as Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard.  Despite that auspicious start, he stayed off the stage for thirty years before joining the chorus of the (late) Texas Gilbert and Sullivan Company from 1994 to 1998.  He joined the GSVLOC in 2000 after moving to the great state of Minnesota.  This production of H.M.S. Pinafore marks Eric’s completion of one full cycle of G&S shows performed by GSVLOC.  (Note for the curious: a petrophysicist evaluates data from oil and gas wells in order to determine how much oil and gas is really down there. Now you know).


David Peichel

Dave is thrilled and honored to be a part of his first GSVLOC production!  He grew up on a pig farm in south central Minnesota where real men don’t sing in public and admitting interest in the opera is social suicide.  As a child, Dave developed many bad singing habits listening to the AM radio oldies station while driving the tractor on the farm.  During the day, he plays the part of a dedicated and donut-loving engineer at Medtronic, and by night sings with Randy and the choir at the First Universalist Church and the Medtronic Metronomes.  Prior to sailing the ocean blue, Dave has been seen playing the part of Bundles and a member of the Hooverville chorus in the Southwest Theatre’s production of Annie.  His vocal practice is largely tolerated by his smart and sober wife, Marnie, and dutiful children.


Cassandra Utt

Cassie recently moved to the Twin Cities from Pittsburgh. She is a 2013 graduate of Bowling Green State University, with degrees in Computer Science and Vocal Performance. Cassie works for Eaton Corporation, a global power management company, in the IT Leadership Development Program.  She also works with MainStreet Musicals in New York City as a University Relations Advisor, helping students organize performances of new musicals.  In Minneapolis, Cassie volunteers with TEDxHennepinAve as the 2015 Speaker Experience Coordinator.  No stranger to Gilbert and Sullivan, Cassie has enjoyed performing numerous roles including Yum-Yum and Pitti-Sing in The Mikado and Celia in Iolanthe.  She can be seen performing with the Minnesota Chorale in various performances throughout the year and is thrilled to have been welcomed into the GSVLOC family!


Madeline Veenker

Madeline is delighted to make her GSVLOC debut with this production of H.M.S. Pinafore.  She recently completed her Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, where she learned a whole lot about singing and tried to lose her Minnesotan accent.  Past roles include Despina in Cosi fan tutte, Josephine in Lady, Be Good, Lucia in The Rape of Lucretia, Fiona in Brigadoon, Rosa Bud in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Meg in Little Women the Musical.  During the week, Madeline teaches voice and piano with the Mount Calvary Academy of Music, directs the Sanctuary Choir & Handbells at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, and works at the Lunds & Byerly’s Corporate Support Office in Meat & Seafood.


Sarah Zuber

Sarah is thrilled to be making her debut with the GSVLOC as a soprano “cousin” aboard the H.M.S. Pinafore.  A Wisconsin native, Sarah studied Voice Performance at Bethel University. The staying power of the Twin Cities has kept her in Minneapolis ever since.  Recent productions include The Jeweler’s Shop and Lilies of the Field at Open Window Theatre, and Maria in The Sound of Music at Good Works Community Theatre.  Other favorites include principal and ensemble roles in Curtains (Nikki), Brigadoon, and The Secret Garden (Lily) among other musical theatre and operatic escapades.  She also performs sacred music and sings with local early music ensemble Hymnos.  When not sailing the topsy-turvy seas, Sarah makes her home in Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Park neighborhood where she spends her days knitting, teaching yoga and spending time with her handsome crew: her husband, Chris and happy husky, Odin.