<< -- 4 -- Kelly Ferjutz UNIVERSAL TRUTH
That evening (one of the nice things about Ohio Light Opera is that careful planning can allow you to see two different productions on the same day) The Firefly of Rudolf Friml was presented, with many of the same singers. It's always fun to see the changes that occur -- or don't -- as the case may be. Apparently not seen on any stage since 1931, a partial version was filmed in 1937. Libretto and lyrics are by Otto Harbach.
The story line is similar to many of that era, except that this operetta takes place almost entirely in America. The second act is set on Bermuda. Nina, a young Italian singer, disguises herself as a cabin boy to escape a cruel master. The yacht belongs to a wealthy socialite Mrs Van Dare, who is in love with Mr Thurston, while her niece Geraldine is in love with Thurston's nephew Jack Travers. Geraldine's maid Suzette and Thurston's valet, Pietro, provide comic relief. An undelivered letter, mistaken identity and false accusations round out the plot. Act III falls some three years later, giving Nina time to mature as an operatic diva, who is booked to sing at a gala planned by Mrs Van Dare. All the mis-matched parties end up appropriately.
Robin DeLeon as Nina and Jack Beetle as Jack Travers in the Ohio Light Opera production of 'The Firefly'. Photo © 2006 Matt Dilyard
There are some charming songs, well done, and the orchestra, conducted by Jason Altieri, has the sound of a 20s jazz orchestra down pat. Colorful sets by Tymberley Wittrig provide a suitable background for the equally colorful and snazzy costumes of Charlene Gross. Lighting by Krystal Kennel adds to the ambiance. Carol Hageman puts her troops through effective choreography, reminiscent of the Charleston, etc.
Some of the leads were double-cast. We saw Jill Anna Ponasik as Suzette, who was French to her very toenails! Every movement she made had a Gallic influence! Her foil, Pietro, was marvelously brought to life by the comic talents of Tyler Nelson. Danielle McCormick was the sometimes fickle Geraldine, while Grant Knox was the suave Jack. Donata Cucinotta was marvelously versatile as Nina, whether in pants or skirts. Jacob Allen was the pill-popping secretary Jenkins, and Joseph Valone was Herr Franz, the choirmaster, who ends up as Nina's manager.
Donata Cucinotta as Nina in the Ohio Light Opera production of 'The Firefly'. Photo © 2006 Matt Dilyard
Elizabeth Mitchell was wonderful as Mrs Van Dare, even though, at times, the dear lady was dense as a post! Holding it all together was the veteran Boyd Mackus as the sophisticated uncle John, a romantic, if slightly -- and still sexy -- older gentleman, with a wonderful baritone voice.
Copyright © 1 August 2006
Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA
Ohio Light Opera is the resident professional company of the College of Wooster, Ohio, USA. OLO has seven shows in repertory until 12 August 2006. For more information or to order tickets for these or other productions, call +1 (330) 263 2345 or visit the Ohio Light Opera website.