“Naughty Marietta”: A Delight in Every Way

July 28, 2010

Christine Lacey as Naughty Marietta, disguised here as the son of old Rudolfo.

Christine Lacey makes a perfectly delightful Marietta in the College Light Opera Company’s production of Victor Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta.” She is bubbly and vivacious, whiny and crabby, impetuous and determined, and altogether charming as she sings and dances her way through New Orleans.

She is joined by a fine cast of characters, and together they sing and dance their way through French Colonial New Orleans. The musical numbers are exuberant; the costumes are vibrant and varied, the script is witty and well-acted, and the orchestra is inspired.

The show, which continues through Saturday, July 31, at 8, with a matinee Thursday, July 29, at 2 PM, at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, is the result of stage director Mark Pearson’s and musical director Jonathan Edward’s concerted effort over the past year to restore the music and libretto of the original 1910 production. The orchestral score and script were “dumbed down” in the 1930s to make them more palatable to “modern” audiences. The two directors joined forces, working with the Victor Herbert Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution to recover as much as they could of the original material and intent of the show.

While I never saw the “dumbed-down” version, and so cannot compare the new production to it, I have to say I was very impressed with the restored “Marietta.” The orchestra sounded great, full and rich, whether performing the overtures or supporting the cast. There were several lyrical violin solos, echoing the mysterious melody sung by Marietta. The restoration of the character of the Voodoo Queen added an important New Orleans element, and Alexandra Linn Desaulniers made a very convincing queen, with a haunting voice, accompanied by her spooky Voodoo dancers.

The first act set shows a fountain, the pinkish purple sky in the background, and an ornate New Orleans building in the foreground. The show opens with a street scene. Sleepers arise and the street scene bustles with excitement. It was one of many big musical numbers in the show, at which the CLOC cast excels.

Ethan Contreras plays Etienne Grandet, the son of the Lieutenant Governor, and Patrick Hagen is Captain Richard Warrington, both interested in the lovely Marietta, but for different reasons. Both have the opportunity to display their fine singing voices. Mr. Contreras muses, “What puppets are men—the strongest can be pulled along by a little woman like that.” Mr. Hagen does a fine job with “It Never, Never Can Be Love” (with Ms. Lacey), “I’m Falling in Love with Somebody,” and, finally, “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” (also with Ms. Lacey).

Gabriel Di Gennaro is very funny as the hopelessly ineffective Lieutenant Governor, who allows his son to control him and the City of New Orleans. His philosophy is to “never do anything that you can put off until tomorrow, for tomorrow you may find someone else who can do it for you.”

Simon O’Hara (James Soller) and Lizette (Samantha Helmstetter) are an amusing non-couple throughout most of the show. Mr. Soller’s “whipping boy” scenes are humorous, and he sings a moving “If I Were Anybody Else But Me.” Ms. Helmstetter is also a talented vocalist.
Chelsea Melamed is beautiful as Adah, a slave-mistress to Etienne. She sings a plaintive and melancholy “’Neath The Southern Moon,” sounding lovely.

Scott Wasserman is funny as old Rudolfo, the keeper of the marionette theater, who helps hide Marietta for a time, though the song she keeps singing is driving him crazy. He is comical as he insists that Marietta is his son.

All in all, “Naughty Marietta” is a wonderful romp, full of good humor, fine music, and that special CLOC touch. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased by calling 508-548-0668, or by visiting the CLOC box office, 58 Highfield Drive in Falmouth. Box office hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 12:30 PM, 2 to 5 PM, and 7 to 9 PM.

There will be a special lecture by Victor Herbert scholar Alyce Mott on “Victor Herbert’s Enduring Legacy” Saturday, July 31, at 3 PM, at Highfield Hall in Falmouth. The talk, on Mr. Herbert’s influence on the American operetta, is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Call the box office to reserve a seat.

Sunday, August 1,  is the annual CLOC Orchestra Soiree Concert, which takes place at 7:30 PM at the Cape Cod Conservatory, across the parking lot from Highfield Theatre. The event is free and open to the public.

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