Kismet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Some riches entail no embarrassment. The Baghdad of Arabian Nights fantasies explodes with charm and color in Lara Teeter's sumptuous revival of the 1953 Broadway classic for Light Opera Works. Inspired by the melodies of Alexander Borodin, Robert Wright and George Forrest wrote the gorgeous score ("Baubles, Bangles and Beads," "Stranger in Paradise," "And This Is My Beloved") and witty lyrics, well matched by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis's superb dialogue. Based on a 1911 play by Edward Knoblock, the musical celebrates the philosophical poet-beggar Hajj, brought from proud poverty to astonished authority by his kismet (Turkish for "fate"). John Shuffle's wily vagabond is a joyous theatrical achievement, and equally apt casting gives us Marie Svejda as Hajj's ardent daughter, Calland Metts as the love-struck Caliph, Alex Honzen as the corrupt Wazir of Police, Heather Carolyn Ullsvik as his disgusted wife, and John S. Shea, insightful as Omar the tent maker. Teeter's choreography is delightful, a mix of belly dancing, dervish whirling, and pseudo-Eastern swing as eclectic as the score. Completing the package are Steven L. Gilliam's set, with its Islamic motifs and calligraphy; Kurt Schnabel's rainbow lights; and Lisa Beth Bower's eye-popping costumes fit for a sultan. Edward Zelnis's orchestra is worthy of the show's tunes, and the chorus is sterling. Yes, the plot presents more than the usual number of complications in a musical, but you regret the passing of almost every moment. Northwestern University, Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston, 847-869-6300. Through August 26: Wednesdays, 2 PM; Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 2 PM. $24-$53.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rich Foreman.

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