As I flipped through the program of An Operetta Holiday, I was struck by director Nick Olcott’s quote at the top of his note: “Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.” In a way, these words ring true. While this cabaret of operetta tunes is clunky, it includes heartfelt and engaging performances that can entice even the most casual classical music listener.
Music Director and Pianist Frank Conlon effortlessly accompanies eight singers as they transition through moments from operettas. The selection even includes a nod to the genre with “Wunderbar,” from the 1940s musical Kiss Me, Kate. Romance is the main theme, but the songs cover a variety of topics that range from goofy to tearful.
The performers gently give a wink to the audience when they deliver their lines between numbers, putting on silly hats, costumes, and accents to show a change in time, place, and character. After all, none of these songs are originally supposed to go together, so Olcott has devised dialogue to bundle them up. But sometimes the stark juxtaposition between a seriously romantic song and a silly, spoken introduction feels off.
An Operetta Holiday
closes December 10, 2017
Details and tickets
An Operetta Holiday, as a whole, is uneven. Even though several songs ooze with emotion, others fall flat with bland delivery or tentativeness. One example: “Romance,” a song which seems like it should portray dreaminess, comes off as somewhat robotic. Movements look choreographed and forced, a pattern that rears its head during other numbers as well. I also found it difficult not to notice the difference between singers who performed with purposeful expressions and singers who just sang. It’s as though the cabaret format is both a boon and a curse: a magical way to bring beloved songs together and a magnifying glass that reveals the blunt contrast between quality.
But when performances strike gold, they strike hard. Cara Gonzales, for instance, uses her velvety voice to thoroughly seize listeners’ hearts during her rendition of “Lover, come back to me.” Several songs successfully feature camp, particularly Katherine Fili’s version of “I love to invite my guests,” which results in constant laughter from the audience. One number, brilliantly sung by Suzanne Lane, captures the bubbliness of being tipsy. And I cannot forget the hilarious movements and facial expressions that encompassed the all-male piece: “Oh, these women!”
The production is a visual delight. Classic, “dinner-date” tables surround a piano, while the singers are adorned in elegant dresses and sleek suits. Romance is clearly projected in the show’s overall image.
Even though there are parts of An Operetta Holiday that fail to dazzle, the cabaret is a delightful time for anyone who wants to see a fun assortment of operetta. There’s a sweetness to the way these songs are presented, as though you’ve just received a romantic box of chocolates. You might not enjoy every piece, but the delicious bites are worth it.
An Operetta Holiday Directed by Nick Olcott and Frank Conlon. Featuring Melissa Chavez, Katherine Fili, Cara Gonzalez, Suzanne Lane, Alex Alburqueque, Simon Charette, Cornelius David, and Garrett Matthews. Lighting design: Marianne Meadows. Costume design: Donna Breslin. Set design: Jonathan Dahm Robertson. Stage manager: Madison Lane. Production coordinator: Brian J. Shaw. Translations: Nick Olcott. Supertitle operator: Alexandre Fauqueux. Box office: Christian Rohde, Luz H. Segura, and Nina Gomez. Ushers: In Series volunteers. Producing artistic director: Carla Hübner. Produced by In Series. Reviewed by Emily Priborkin.
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