By Gloria Austin
ORONO — A Houlton native will be playing the lead role in the University of Maine at Orono’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” an operetta written by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Jennifer Beasley Parlee, daughter of Dr. Joseph and Sue Beasley, has been cast as Mabel.
“Last spring I knew the musical was going to be “The Pirates of Penzance,” and I really wanted to audition for it,” said Parlee. “It has always been a Beasley family favorite. I really wanted the part of Mabel, but with it being a lead role, I predicted it would be competitive, so I worked all summer practicing the audition song. I didn’t know what to expect, so I went in to the audition with low expectations and high hopes. Turns out that hard work pays off.”
Parlee can be seen in UMO’s theater production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” on Thursday, Feb. 17, at noon; Friday and Saturdya, Feb. 18-19, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m.
Parlee is a 2008 graduate of Houlton High School and is a junior at UMO studying music education with a concentration in vocal studies.
“For Jenny to have the lead in the musical at UMaine is quite an honor for her,” said Joe Fagnant of the Houlton Music Department. “There are a lot of talented individuals who come from all over New England to study at UMaine, and by Jenny being selected for this lead role, she has proven that she is part of an elite group of musicians.”
This is Parlee’s first performance that she has auditioned for since starting her studies at UMO.
“I haven’t auditioned for other plays because I’ve been busy with other classes and performing groups,” she said. “There also haven’t been any plays that I wanted to be in as badly as ‘Pirates’.”
During her last three years, Parlee has performed with the University Singers, Athena Consort and an opera workshop.
“Opera workshop is a class that performs different opera scenes, so in a sense I have done some theater-like performances,” Parlee added.
In high school, Parlee had two lead roles. In the “Wizard of Oz,” she played Dorothy and in “Singin’ in the Rain,” she was Kathy Seldon. Parlee had minor roles in “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Guys and Dolls.”
“Jenny was a well-rounded musician who grew musically every year while at Houlton High School,” said Fagnant. “She performed in many instrumental and vocal ensembles at Houlton and has been a member of McGill’s Band for many years. She really shined her senior year in the lead role as Dorothy in the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ It was during the development of that role, Jenny showed me she was maturing as a musician and readying herself to take on future challenges in college.”
With her background, the transition from high school music to college wasn’t difficult.
“The music program at UMO is very busy, but I felt well prepared going into it because of the groups I was involved in at Houlton High School and the personal instruction I had from Kaye Trickey and Scott Walker.”
Trickey worked several years with Parlee on developing her music.
“I found her always anxious to work very hard for whatever she was trying to accomplish,” Trickey said. “This appears to be an ongoing trait of hers as she graduated from high school and progressed on to college with her music studies.”
After Parlee graduates, she plans on teaching music and eventually attending grad school.
“I don’t have any particular plans for theater,” she said. “But, I hope it is something I continue to do throughout my life, both teaching and performing.”
Fagnant was happy to hear of Parlee’s endeavors.
“I was glad that she chose music education as a career path,” he said.”It is wonderful to know she is doing well in her studies at college.”
Parlee offers this advice to high school students planning to follow a musical career, “Develop good time management skills,” she said.
“Music students are very busy,” she explained. “On top of many hours in class and rehearsal, they spend hours practicing. The music world is very competitive, and if you don’t learn to use your time wisely, it is easy to fall behind.”
Trickey also hopes that Parlee’s experience will inspire other young people.
“I would hope the example of Jenny’s hard work would encourage any other local talented youth to give serious thought as they might approach a musical career,” she said.
By Gloria Austin