Naughty Marietta 1983
Light Opera Works brings off 'Naughty' with nice aplomb
With its revival of Victor Herbert's "Naughty Marietta," Light Opera Works has reached a new level of accomplishment. If the company can continue to mount productions with this degree of confidence and panache, it may establish for itself a genuine niche in Chicago's busy musical life. Here is a production that was as professional as it was handsome.
That is no small accomplishment considering the nature of "Naughty Marietta." First mounted in 1910, the dusty little classic was revised by Frederick Roffman in 1978 for a New York City Opera production. Roffman updated the book by about 50 years, setting the romantic exploits of the coquettish Italian girl Marietta in 19th century New Orleans. Wisely, he maintained such sentimental standards as "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" and "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp."
The piece offers a little bit of everything, combining Italianate melodies, American vaudeville and French can-can as though they belonged together. It is a work that mocks classical opera one moment, then steals its best melodramatic tricks the next. "Naughty Marietta" is never quite sure what it is, but in a quick and agressive production, it's hard to imagine anything quite so amusing.
To his credit, director Philip A. Kraus let this crazy piece run its own course. He staged the moments of unbridled melodrama, such as the revelation of Marietta's true identity at the end of Act II, for all the fire they held. With the scene's shadowy lighting and throbbing voices, you might have thought it was from "Fidelio".
Yet in passages such as the giddy courtship game played by delicate French maidens and indelicate American soldiers, the comedy was as lightheaded as could be. The women squealed, the men harrumphed, and here was romance exactly as Herbert had satirized it.
The cast was unusually strong in both major and minor roles, which gave this production a welcome feeling of solidity and confidence. Lynda Kemeny wore her emotions openly as Marietta, practically falling in love with anyone wearing pants. She has a fine voice, strong enough to project, yet personal enough to bring across a song.
Robert Knight was downright smarmy as Etienne, the pirate in disguise, and sand his seductive vocal lines with great relish. Darrell Rowarder performed with vigor and aplomb as the hero Captain Dick. Kathryn Hartgrove registered all manner of distress as Adah, the cuckolded mistress of Etienne.
Best of all, the production as a whole managed to mix farce and pathos without leaning too much in either direction.
There is nothing any of us can do to keep 1984 from marching in right on schedule, but you can turn the clock back, musically speaking through New Year's Eve thanks to Evanston's Light Opera Works. This three year old local not for profit theatre organization is staging a revival of Victor Herbert's NAUGHTY MARIETTA. While the dress rehearsal performance I caught was not the finished product on display through Saturday night, it nevertheless boded well for an extremely impressive production and performance.
The operetta dazzled its early twentieth century audiences with the tale of a saucy French-Italian maiden in New Orleans in the year 1803 as French, Spanish and American forces were vying for control of the city and the Louisiana Territory up river. Marietta, played marvelously by Lynda Kemeny, has run away from Europe to escape a prearranged marriage. It is the characters she meets, including Pirates and American rangers led by the dashing Captain Dick, played and sung by Darrell Rowarder that make up the three act tale, whose finale includes...what else...a masked ball.
Operettas have a certain charm of their own. They are musical productions which, I suspect, might have wider appeal, even as period peieces, were they thought of as today's musical comedies...
Whatever you chose to call it, NAUGHTY MARIETTA is a marvelous conclusion to the 1983 Evanston Light Opera Works season.
'Marietta' a merry way to end the year
"For I'm falling in love with someone..." and I think it's whichever elf at Light Opera Works elected to wrap up "Naughty Marietta" as the final gift under the holiday tree.
Victor Herbert's musical meandering through Luoisdiana bayous played Evanston's Cahn Auditorium last weekend with enough warmth to take the chill off all but the most frigid of theatergoers. With solid production values, a generally good cast, a couple of high-flying dance numbers and topnotch work by chorus and orchestra, it was fine way to bid 1983 farewell.
"Marietta" is a spry old girl, over 70 and still kicking up her heels. Silly, romantic with a mix of musical styles stretching from Vienna to Broadway (there even is a number in ragtime, the hot pop music of the day), the show was refurbished by Frederick Roffman for the New York City Opera in 1978.
When those American Rangers went marching across the stage in "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp Along the Highway," I was suddenly 13 again and falling in love with Nelson Eddy with all the fervor of my prepubescent soul. And "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life."
But it wasn't just a trip down memory Lane. My young companion, who wouldn't know Jeanette MacDonald from a hamburger chain, was equally enchanted.
Darrell Rowader played the dashing Cap. Dick Warrington with more dogged determination than dash and with a decent tenor, he wasn't a bad stand in for Nelson Eddy.
Besides, it's the soprano's show and pretty Lynda Kemeny played the vivacious heroine for all she was worth. Which meant a French accent, an Italian accent, a lot of dancing around the stage and those coloratura trills in "The Italian Street Song".
Robert Knight was impressively villainous as the pirate-who-is-secretly-the governor's son and Terrance C. MacCracken provided comic relief as a bumpkin...
By and Large, director Phil Kraus kept things from getting out of hand simply by sticking to the script. "Naughty Marietta" is its own send up. The characters are too boldly drawn ever to have been believed, even back in 1910. There is a second act ensemble that is one of the best spoofs of grand opera I've ever seen. It didn't have to be - and wasn't - overplayed to make a point.
"Naughty Marietta" was worth a laugh and a whole lot more.
Robert C. Marsh in the Sun Times singularly disagreed with all the above and gave one of the most sour, ill-conceived reviews of all time. Was he at the same performances???? He even states he did not the see the entire show and gets the singer who played the governor wrong. Inept might be another word that comes to mind; additionally...
NO REVIEWER SHOULD BE REVIEWING ANYTHING HE CAN'T SEE TO ITS CONCLUSION.