|Miles Mykkanen, Lauren Worsham, Ato Blankson-Wood, Joshua Jeremiah, Sichel Claverie, John Taylor Ward, and Stephanie Hayes onstage at National Sawdust|
An ABFAB night like last night can only happen when people of extraordinary talent and imagination pool their resources. Heartbeat Opera, enjoying (and they seem to enjoy themselves as much as the audience) their fourth season, put on a show like no other in celebration of Halloween. We love Halloween because we get to dress up and release our inner spirits.
Last night's festivities allowed those who love opera and those who love Shakespeare and those who love the performers (we can put ourself in all three categories) to gather under one roof and celebrate the arts. If only one aria from each and every opera based on a Shakespeare play had been on the program, we would have been there all night--and never complained. If there was one "flaw" in the evening it was that it was too short. We just couldn't get enough.
Just imagine the splendiferous voices delighting the ear whilst dazzling visuals filled the eye! Anyone who remembers Ira Siff's Gran Scena Opera Company will recall fondly how much fun it can be to send up opera. Last night's production fell into that niche of burlesque.
A script by Co-Artistic Director Ethan Heard, Peregrine Heard, and Sara Holdren was spoken by Ms. Heard and contained multiple plays on the words of The Bard. The Bard himself was portrayed by Stephanie Hayes who rocked a golden Elizabethan costume complete with gloves and pumps.
Shakespeare's comedies involved much cross-dressing and the performances themselves involved young men playing the parts of women. So seeing Shakespeare portrayed by a beautiful young woman, complete with beard and moustache, seemed absolutely on target.
The band, comprising keyboard wizard Daniel Schlosberg and violinist Jacob Ashworth (Co-Music Directors) with clarinettist Gleb Kanasevich and bassist Sam Suggs, opened the program with some instrumental music. Mr. Schlosberg himself arranged the music for this interesting combination of musicians.
Every aria was delivered with excellent vocal technique but an off-kilter style. Soprano Lauren Worsham made a not-so-innocent Juliet, singing "Je veux vivre" from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette. And later, made a down-right slutty Maria from Bernstein's West Side Story, singing the duet "Tonight" with terrific tenor Miles Mykkanen as her Tony. Mr. Mykkanen was resplendent in fuschia, entering on point (yes he has a dance background but has yet to join Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo).
Baritone Joshua Jeremiah sang a chilling rendition of Iago's "Credo" from Verdi's Otello. Mezzo-soprano Sishel Claverie was just as chilling as Lady Macbeth in the "Sleepwalking Scene" from Verdi's Macbeth.
Much of the humor derived from the onstage Shakespeare who knew nothing of Brooklyn or Broadway or opera. When he innocently and unwittingly uttered the name of his play Macbeth the stage was filled with menacing projections; it was a moment the audience loved. Another funny moment was the "Exit, pursued by bear" being given a literal manifestation.
From Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream, "Bottom's Dream" was sung by John Taylor Ward in stunning drag, lending new emphasis to "bottom".
Queen Elizabeth herself made a stunning entrance, resplendently gowned and ruffed, in the person of Ato Blankson-Wood.
It's been a long time since we heard Galt MacDermot's Hair in which he set "What a Piece of Work is Man" from Hamlet. We also heard something from Purcell's "Faerie Queen". And did we mention the serial lip-synching?
The evening closed with a group sing of Cole Porter's "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" and a very raunchy rendition it was with every double entendre made clear!
Let us give props to some of the other people who contributed so grandly to the success of the show. First there is Co-Artistic Director Louisa Proske who will direct Mozart's Don Giovanni for the Spring Festival next May at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. This is sure to be revolutionary!
The gorgeous costumes for tonight were designed by Seth Bodie. Choreography was by Emma Jaster. Rachel Padula was responsible for the eye-catching hair and makeup design. Joey Moro lit the show effectively and projection design was by Nicholas Hussong. Great production values like these enhanced the onstage talent.
It was all in fun. A carousel of photos has been placed on our Facebook page--Voce di Meche, since our words cannot convey fully the many delights of the evening.
(c) meche kroop