Highly Recommended **** The Light Opera Works production of “Die Fledermaus” is stunning. I’m not an opera aficionado, but I have friends, and they told me that this is the best production of “Die Fledermaus” they’ve seen. It seemed to me that “Die Fledermaus” is a perfect blend of music, melodrama and farce – and it’s performed in English! Opera is not my thing, and this was a little on the long side, but I still enjoyed it. 3 ½ Spotlights.
As in most farces, “Die Fledermaus” is full of pratfalls, physical humor, mistaken identities and multiple doors. Act I, the introduction and set-up of the farce, is long and – don’t hate me – kind of boring, but hang on, it just gets better and better! It opens with Alfred (Tobias Wright), a tenor who won’t give up, serenading his former love, Rosalinda (Alicia Berneche), who has married someone else.
Rosalinda has her own problems, her husband who assaulted a public official, will be going off to jail for at least a week. Her maid, Adele (Kelly Britt), who got a letter from her sister, an actress, with an invitation to a fabulous party given by a Russian prince, is asking for the night off so she can ‘visit her sick aunt’.
When Rosalinda’s husband, Eisenstein (Michael Cavalieri), gets home, he’s berating his lawyer, Dr. Blind (Dennis M. Kalup), because he’s lost his appeal and will have to go to jail that night. As Rosalinda and Adele bustle around trying to make him comfortable, his longtime friend, Dr. Falke (William Roberts) drops in with an enticing offer. He persuades Eisenstein to enjoy the Russian prince’s party, then go to jail later.
As soon as he leaves, Rosalinda relents and lets Adele go to the party. Alfred comes back to serenade his Rosalinda. After he dons her husband’s lounge jacket and makes himself at home, he is dragged off to jail by the Warden (Russell Hoke) in Eisenstein’s place.
Sometime in the past, Eisenstein played a practical joke involving a fledermaus (bat), on Dr. Falke, who has been known as Dr. Fledermaus ever since. Unbeknownst to Eisenstein, the doctor is about to get his revenge!
Act II takes place at the ball given by Prince Orlofsky (William Dwyer), attended by the highest of high society. The ensemble – ladies wearing glittering dresses and jewels and gentlemen wearing tail coats dancing to Strauss waltzes – are glamorous. Adele, wearing a dress she ‘borrowed’ from her employer, is in awe of the hoi polloi when she meets up with her sister, Ida (Alexis Armstrong). Ida, however, is aghast to see her sister among the elite.
Dr. Falke, determined to amuse Prince Orlofsky, who is bored, bored, bored by everything in his life, has set up a scenario at the ball. He points out Adele, the ‘maid’, as part one. Eisenstein, whom he introduces to society as a Marquis, is part two. He hints to everyone about a special guest, a mysterious and wealthy ‘Hungarian’ who always wears a mask. Of course, that ‘Hungarian’ turns out to be Rosalinda or part three of his little farce.
Act III takes place at the jail where night guard, Frosch (Tim Kazurinsky), has been getting drunk. He’s getting more and more annoyed by the new prisoner – Alfred, the tenor, of course – who won’t stop singing. When the Warden returns from the ball, he too is drunk and ready for a nap. His sleep is constantly interrupted, however, by the doorbell.
The basic set – steps and arches – remains throughout. In Act I, window frames hang above the stairs while red pillows are piled on the lowest step. Elaborate white and gold furniture and a Christmas tree complete the look. For the ballroom in Act II, gold pillows have replaced the red ones. Small decorative trees in gold pots, gilt chairs and a bench adorn the ballroom. For the jail in Act III, there’s a doorway with stained glass surrounds at the top of the stairs, while ordinary wooden desk and chairs complete the stark look.
By the way, “Die Fledermaus” is accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra conducted by Roger L. Bingaman.
Light Opera Works becomes Music Theater Works on January 2nd.
The Light Opera Works production of “Die Fledermaus” runs through January 1st at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, Evanston. “Die Fledermaus” has three acts; running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes, with two intermissions.
Remaining performances (there were only 6 scheduled) are Thursday, December 29th, Friday, December 30th
Saturday, December 31st (New Year’s Eve) at 8:00 pm
Sunday, January 1st at 2:00 pm.
Tickets start at $34. Free parking is available (evenings, weekends and holidays) in several nearby lots. FYI (847) 920-5360 or www.lightoperaworks.com.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Die Fledermaus”
NOTES from the editor
With Jane out of town with the grandkids for New Year’s, I decided to take a ride to Evanston to see the FINAL production of the year for Light Opera Works ( also the final production using that name, as they will switch to “Music Theater Works”). Tomorrow afternoon will be THE last. Very impressive ! Rudy Hogenmiller never lets us down. He finds great talent (even the ensemble sparkles) and accepts the greatest of challenges for this company. “Die Fledermaus” (means “the BAT” is an Operetta (adaptation by Quade Winter) with music by Johann Strauss , Jr. and a libretto by Carl Haffner and Richard Genee.
This is rarely done, partly because it is three acts (almost 3 hours in total time) and partly because it requires wonderful vocal range and acting ability and one particular actor to handle the part of the Jailer. How lucky we are in Chicago to have comic Tim Kazurinsky in town to handle the role of Frosh- as always, he is amazing!
Carol covered the show for me, and after reading her thoughts, I knew that I was in for a treat. The treat made my New Year’s Eve very special despite Jane being in Mexico. I know that the change of names at Light Opera Works will have absolutely no bearing on the entertainment they bring to the Chicago Theater Scene. If you are not a regular to their work, perhaps you should try to get there in the upcoming season:
“Candide” June 3-11th
“Gypsy” August 19th-27th
“Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits” (their Cabaret production) October 6th-15th
“Peter Pan” Holiday show 12/23- New Year’s Day
New Website www.MusicTheaterWorks.com