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By now Evanston-based Light Opera Works has earned a well-deserved reputation as the city's prime purveyor of summer-weight schmaltz. Not just any operettas though--the discerning taste of its knowledgeable artistic director, Philip Kraus, leans toward those that are witty, musical, and half forgotten. Franz Lehar's The Count of Luxembourg fits the bill. The operetta, while not nearly as famous and durable as his The Merry Widow, was a transatlantic hit in Vienna and on Broadway when it was first produced about 80 years ago. The audiences no doubt responded to its lilting waltzes, silly ditties, and sardonic one-liners. They might also have been titillated by the operetta's adult theme and bittersweet, ironic outlook. Its plot is set into motion by an indecent proposal: A prince is infatuated with a singer but cannot marry her because she's a commoner, so he pays a poor count to marry then divorce her. This way, after she becomes a woman of distinction, the prince can claim her. Naturally, the count and the showgirl find themselves gradually falling in love. Typical of Lehar, the waltz, with its rules of decorum and flirtatious steps, stands for both convention and passion. A cut above most Viennese operettas of the time, The Count largely succeeds in conveying the genuine emotions under the sophisticated, glib facade. The cast of this production includes Eric Perkins (as Count Rene), Karen Wicklund (Angele), and Warren Mouton (Prince Basil). Staging is by Jonathan Field, a veteran on the North American light opera circuit; Thomas Cavendish conducts the estimable pit orchestra. The flashy costumes, always a high point of a LOW event, are designed by Natalie Barth Walker, who's dressed many a Broadway show. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 2 PM, Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston; 708-869-6300.

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

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