Light Opera Works | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Light Opera Works


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At the height of his musical-theater renown, Irish-born Victor Herbert--the popular and prolific turn-of-the-century tunesmith now remembered chiefly for the MacDonald-Eddy vehicle Naughty Marietta--earned the epithet "man of mirth, music, and melody," and his 1906 operetta The Red Mill shows why the billing might not have been mere hyperbole. It was his greatest hit--a record 274 Broadway performances in the initial run, and another 500 in revival four decades later. Musically endearing and conceived as a showcase for a famed vaudeville duo, the operetta also has a serious side. Balanced against the high jinks of two outlandishly disguised Americans (Kid Conner and Con Kidder) stranded penniless in Holland is the forbidden love between a sea captain and a burgomaster's daughter--the formula that later provided inspiration for the Marx Brothers. This Light Opera Works production--believed to be the operetta's formal debut in Chicago--uses a meticulously reconstructed version of the book (the work was supervised by Frederick Roffman) that updates much of the period humor and incorporates materials discarded by Herbert in out-of-town tryouts. It stars newcomer Michael Kotze (as Kidder) and Lee Strawn (as Conner). Staging is by Roosevelt University's Seth Reines, musical direction by LOW regular Peter Lipari. Tonight and Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 2 PM, Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University, 600 Emerson, Evanston; 708-869-6300.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J.B. Spector.

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