The Ohio Light Opera 2019 Season, part 2

We’re back with the remaining four productions on the Ohio Light Opera 2019 playbill, starting with a classic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, possibly the first theatrical piece I memorized as a small child. Because… pirates.

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Everyone knows Rodgers and Hammerstein, but Hammerstein did a lot of work with Kern before he really figured out how to effectively integrate these things called “plots” into a musical (Show Boat notwithstanding). Here’s one of their earlier efforts:

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A season at OLO wouldn’t be complete without some csardas-fueled Emmerich Kalman (a personal favorite of mine).

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And finally, for those fans of hopelessly melodramtic, multi-generational tales of foiled romance, we have this incredibly florid offering from Ivor Novello (aka Jeremy Northam in Gosford Park).

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I’m looking forward to seeing all of these next month!

The Ohio Light Opera 2019 Season, part 1

Short break from Shakespeare this week! The Ohio Light Opera, my favorite obscure operetta and early musical theatre festival, is about to open their season this weekend! To celebrate, I’m taking a look at their playbill, starting with some (relatively) heavy hitters.

First up, a Rodgers & Hammerstein classic.

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Fun fact: I, a mixed race child of Asian and Caucasian parents, was well into my twenties before I realized Nellie’s problem with Emile was miscegenation. Apparently, I am totally clueless.

Next, some fluffy Gershwin!

I love me some Gershwin, so I am looking forward to this. I’ve seen Crazy For You, the updated, “new and improved” version of Girl Crazy, but I’ve never seen the original.

And now, the opposite of fluffy Gershwin: serious Sondheim.

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Tune in Thursday for the rest of the OLO 2019 season, featuring a Gilbert & Sullivan classic and a bunch of REALLY OBSCURE stuff.

The Ohio Light Opera 2018 Season in 3 Panels Each!

It's almost opening week for the Ohio Light Opera! I'm looking forward to going to Wooster later in the summer to get my annual light opera and early musical fix, but for now, here's a rundown of their entire season.... starting with Adler and Ross's classic musical about sleepwear and industrial action!

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Next up is a Rodgers and Hart classic that was turned into a classic-but-totally-unrecognizable film adaptation starring Mickey & Judy, featuring free-range theatre kids attempting to PUT ON A SHOW.

Next up, a Cole Porter musical. As with most Cole Porter musicals that are not Anything Goes or Kiss Me Kate, I know lots of the songs in this one, but have never heard of it before. 

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No Ohio Light Opera season would be complete without a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.

I'm excited about OLO's first Leonard Bernstein production, especially because it's Candide. It has an AWESOME OVERTURE. 

You can almost always guarantee that an Offenbach operetta is going to be silly, but La Perichole actually seemed comparatively sedate by his standards... until it gets to Act 3.

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And finally, a Lehar operetta. These are generally either moderaetly fluffy or somewhat self-importantly bittersweet and romantic. Fortunately, this is firmly in the first category. 

Looking forward to seeing all this good stuff on the stage on the Freedlander Theatre later this summer! 

The Ohio Light Opera 2017 Season in 3 Panels Each!

It's almost time for my favorite light opera theatre company's season to start! The Ohio Light Opera kicks off their 2017 season this weekend. Let's see what they have in store for us this year...

We start off with a couple well-known musicals, the first being Meredith's Willson's magnum opus, The Music Man. 

So far so good. Next up is Cole Porter's Anything Goes. 

When you think about Anything Goes, you think about all the great song and dance numbers. You never think about the denouement with the dubious Chinese disguises. That's because it's stupid. 

OLO was kind enough to program the same Gilbert and Sullivan operetta that is playing at the Stratford Festival this year, so I didn't have to draw a new comic of it:

"THIS RESOLVES EVERYTHING SOMEHOW", a.k.a. the motto of most Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I loves 'em.

From Gilbert and Sullivan to Gershwin, Primrose looks like a nice, typical, early American musical, with lots of couples getting mixed up.

Side note: I really resent drawing 3-panel plays of shows that have more than two couples in them, because it's a real pain to try and fit six or more people in a single panel. 

A lovely Ruritanian romance classic by Sigmund Romberg is up next:

There always has to be a bittersweet operetta in any OLO season to balance out all the frothy, lighthearted capering, and The Student Prince is this year's offering.

Next up is ONE OF MY FAVORITES AAAAAAAAAH I LOVE IT:

I love Countess Maritza. Apart from Die Fledermaus, it's probably my favorite of the Classical Viennese Operetta genre. The music is great and the plot is actually decent. The last OLO production of Maritza back in 2003 probably ranks as one of my top ten theatrical experiences of all time; I'm not even joking.

OK, next up we have this hot mess: 

Don't ask me any questions about this one. I have absolutely no answers, but it's currently in the running for this season's Stupidest Plot in a Musical or Operetta award. I absolutely can't wait to see it. If it's half as stupid as Herbert's Dream City and the Magic Knight, it'll be a real winner. 

And that's the Ohio Light Opera's 2017 season! If you're in Midwest, seriously think about checking them out - they've perfected the art of balancing the madcap stupidity and unapologetic melodrama of operetta and early American musicals, and it's always a delight to watch them. I can't wait to visit them in August!

Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival

In other news, I will be exhibiting at the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival (nee Kids Read Comics) this weekend! Stop by the downtown Ann Arbor District Library between 12:00pm and 5:30pm on Saturday and Sunday and say hello! I will be selling the usual t-shirts, posters, and comic books. It's going to be a lot of fun!

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The Ohio Light Opera 2016 Season in 3 Panels Each

We take a break from our regularly scheduled romp through Twelfth Night for a musical interlude!

OK, OK, I'm a big Shakespeare person. Shakespeare Shakespeare Shakespeare. But honestly, if you excavate the layers of my theatrical soul, the bedrock and very foundation of it is operetta, and nothing fulfills my operetta yearnings quite so much as a week at the Ohio Light Opera. As of tomorrow, all seven of their shows, ranging from operetta to early American musical, will be open, and I will be traipsing down there with my family next week to SEE ALL THE SHOWS. 

"But what shows are these?" I hear you ask. Well.. let me tell you...

Our first show is one that will be familiar to most Shakespeare fans. With lyrics and music by Cole PorterKiss Me Kate is a wonderful blend of Shakespearean send-up and back-stage antics. One of my favorite musicals.

SAMPLE SONG: Brush Up Your Shakespeare.

I've never actually seen Annie Get Your Gun (with lyrics and music by the marvelous Irving Berlin) but I know at least half the songs already and can do a terrible Ethel Merman impression whilst singing them.

SAMPLE SONG: Anything You Can Do.

OK, let's get this out of the way: I am a person of Asian extraction who loves Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. Yes, a Victorian comic opera set in Japan is problematic. I see both sides of the issue, but, at the end of the day, I grew up with this music and I love it. Gilbert and Sullivan is in my blood. 

SAMPLE SONG: Brightly Dawns Our Wedding Day.

Have a Heart is one of several collaborations between composer Jerome Kern and lyricist (and general literary wit) P.G. Wodehouse. It debuted in 1917, is hardly ever performed nowadays, and, as far as I can tell, has an incredibly stupid plot typical of this era of musicals.

SAMPLE SONG: Couldn't find one on YouTube, which is a pity. There's a song called Napoleon which sounds wonderfully stupid. 

Ah! Now this one I have seen. La Vie Parisienne, with music by Jacques Offenbach, has (wait for it) an incredibly stupid plot. I've seen it before at least twice (once at the Ohio Light Opera and once on film) and the only thing I remember is that some guy sings about being from Brazil and another guy's coat splits down the back when he bows over.

I have a Sadler's Wells English recording and it has a song with the immortal lyrics "Her petticoats go frou frou frou, her little feet go tok tok tok, her petticoats go frou frou frou frou frou frou frou frou frou frou frou." Which tells you all you need to know about Offenbach, really.

SAMPLE SONG: Votre Habit à Craqué Dans le Dos (Your Coat is Splitting Down the Back)

This here is classic, self-indulgent, melodramatic light opera plot stuff here. I'm looking forward to it mainly because it's by Welsh songwriter and (later) movie star Ivor Novello, whom you may recall was played with great panache by Jeremy Northam in Gosford Park. I mostly know Novello from his famous World War I song Keep the Home Fires Burning.

SAMPLE SONG: I Can Give You The Starlight.

I have to say, one of my favorite operetta composers is hipster's choice Emmerich Kalman. His Countess Maritza remains one of my favorite operettas of all time. You can always count on Kalman to have a spirited gypsy csardas somewhere in his work. I know absolutely nothing about The Little Dutch Girl except it sounds like such a typical operetta plot and I'm assuming there will be gypsies involved somehow.

SAMPLE SONG: I have no idea! 

And that's the Ohio Light Opera's 2016 season! If you're at OLO, keep an eye out for me and come say hello! I'll be there throughout the symposium week, soaking up all the light opera goodness.

The Ohio Light Opera 2015 Season... in 3 Panels!

This blog/comic might be predominately devoted to Shakespeare, but, as a general theatre lover, I would be remiss if I didn't address one of the highlights of my year: my annual family trip to the Ohio Light Opera, whose season kicks off this Saturday. 

As I've mentioned before, operetta was a formative part of my theatrical upbringing. Sadly, operetta and early, pre-Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals have largely faded from American stages. Fortunately, places like OLO make it their mission to keep these otherwise obscure and unjustly ignored plays alive. 

Here is their current season, condensed into three panel plays. And by the way... if you think Shakespeare's comedies have stupid plots, you have never seen a comic operetta. I have been going to OLO for almost 30 years now, and it is always ridiculously, stupidly fun. (Here are my round-ups of last year's productions.)

An early American musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, who is one of my favorites. I read the plot for this and it is SO INCREDIBLY STUPID. This isn't a bad thing. In my experience, the stupider the raw material, the more hysterical the OLO performance of it is. 

Not my favorite Lerner and Loewe musical, although it's popular with many people. It's got some nice songs in it, though, and the preponderance of gratuitously fake Scottish accents is always amusing. 

Music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ogden Nash? I'm intrigued.... This will be my first Kurt Weill musical. Also, the plot? It's ridiculously stupid. CAN'T WAIT.

By composer Franz Lehar. I love me some Lehar (most famous for The Merry Widow). This is classic overwrought operetta fare - a true romance selflessly sacrificed by a young maid who only wants the best for her man, etc. etc. Great music, though. 

Music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin! That's always a good thing. Like many early American musicals, the plot for this is.... wait for it.... totally stupid. This is a recurring theme with comic operetta and early musicals, but, as I said, it's not a bad thing. The stupider the better, I say.

Gilbert and Sullivan! My first theatrical love! I might have large passages of Shakespeare memorized, but I can almost literally sing through any entire G&S operetta (with the exception of the Act I choruses, which always involve lots of people singing different words very loudly all at the same time, and thus are harder to pick up by ear.) Yeomen is the only G&S operetta that ends on a bit of a downer, but the music is gorgeous. 

I love all the G&S operettas, but I'm particularly fond of Ruddigore, possibly because it has freaking picture gallery ghosts who come down from their frames and very politely torture people. It's great. 

Anyways, that's my round-up of the Ohio Light Opera! I will be going there for the last week of their season in August, where I can catch all the shows at once. If you're in the Midwest area and enjoy truly mindless entertainment with truly great music, I highly recommended checking them out. A lot of these shows you literally will never see anywhere else. 

Theatre Withdrawal

This has been my last seven days...

The great thing about going to theatre festivals for an extended period of time is that you can totally immerse yourself in the theatre-going experience. The bad thing about going to theatre festivals for an extended period of time is that, eventually, you have to leave and return to the real world. This is never a pleasant experience.

Fortunately I only have one week of real world to tolerate before I escape to the Shaw and Stratford theatre festivals. Watch out, Canada, I'm coming for you!

The Ohio Light Opera in 3 Panels, part 2

I have just returned from my annual jaunt to the Ohio Light Opera. Last Friday I posted three-panel summaries of the first three plays I saw there, and today I am inflicting four more of them on you.

Everybody knows My Fair Lady, right? Right?

This is possibly the weirdest and most hysterical operetta I have ever seen - and I've seen a lot of weird operettas. Composed by Victor Herbert, the first act is a pretty disjointed collection of comic scenes and songs. However, the real pay-off is in the second act, when, for no apparent reason, the entire cast puts on a half-hour spoof of Wagnerian grand opera, complete with magic swan, ponderously self-important music, and totally inane lyrics. 

Take it from me: you haven't truly lived until you've seen an entire operatic chorus bellow "TAN TA RA TA TA TA TA BING BING!" at full volume. 

That was one of the best half hours of my life. I am in mourning now, because I will, in all probability, never again see such a masterclass in egregious over-acting again in my lifetime. It was a thing of beauty and a joy forever. 

You might have seen the 1953 film version of this musical, starring Ethel Merman. If you haven't you ought to. It's a lot of fun, and has some classic Irving Berlin tunes in it, such as "The Hostess with the Mostes'" and "You're Just In Love". 

Incidentally, the alternate version of this strip is as follows:

  1. Kenneth sings "It's a lovely day today".
  2. Kenneth sings "It's a lovely day today" again.
  3. Kenneth sings "It's a lovely day today" and the audience members have to have the tune forcibly removed from their ears.

Seriously, the guy will not stop singing that song

With music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by P.G. Wodehouse, this prime example of early American musical theatre relies heavily on a non-stop stampede of hijinks, misunderstandings and mistaken identities. You know... like most Shakespearean comedies.

Anyways, if you're in the Midwest I highly encourage you to check out the Ohio Light Opera next summer. Because it's SO MUCH FUN.