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A CurtainUp Review
The Merry Widow
By Elyse Sommer
There's still plenty of merriment and musical pizazz in that turn of the last century's waltzing operetta The Merry Widow by Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár and librettists Viktor Léon and Leo Stein. That is provided it's blessed with a widow whose charm and voice match her fortune as well as a cast of other Pontevedrians up to the comic and vocal demands of this scintillatingly silly musical that was an early and influential part of the golden age musical comedies.
When it comes to the Dicapo Opera Theatre's production mounted to celebrates the 100th anniversary of the enduringly popular The Merry Widow's New York premiere, all the key ingredients for two and a half hours of colorfully staged, zestfully performed musical merry making are in place. Kristin Sampson brought a superb soprano and great presence to Anna Glawari, and her fellow Pontevedrians were also fully invested in the fun -- and of course, there were those high-stepping Can-Can girls to wind things up in the night club that inspired the show's famous "You'll Find Me at Maxim's." While there were no theatrical pyrotechnics, this was nevertheless a rich, colorful production. The big cast (a total of 39) was sumptuously outfitted by Angela Huff, and John Farrell created a handsome new set for each of the three acts.
To ward off the old chestnut aura, this Merry Widow used Wendy Wasserstein's very contemporary 2001 translation. Yes, that's Pulitzer prize winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein whose death last January was such a grievous loss to the theater community and her legions of friends and fans. Judging from this, an original libretto would surely have become part of her oeuvre. It's clear that she loved this work and had fun injecting some sly contemporary references (at one point a character is actually accused of sounding like the manager of a mutual fund).
The fun spirit Wasserstein's translation emphasizes dominated this entire production, especially the last and very lively act in Maxim's presided over by no less a m'aitre d'hotel than Dicapo's founder and director, Michael Capasso. He brought an extra filip of fun to his brief appearance with a number of ad hoc references which the many Dicapo regulars ate up and could still be overheard chuckling over as they exited.
I didn't get to see this production until late in its brief run so you're probably reading this after the fact. However, the Dicapo season has just begun. Coming up are Tobias Picker's Thérèse Raquin , Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut. Check the company's website, www.dicapo.com, for more details.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide