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Light Opera Works

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Although Victor Herbert's staged spectacle for children Babes in Toyland, which premiered here in 1903, was designed in the mold of The Nutcracker and The Wizard of Oz, it's seldom been revived except on film (the 1934 Laurel and Hardy comic version, the schmaltzy 1961 Disney attempt starring Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello). For the Houston Grand Opera's staging of it in 1991--the first in 60 years--Richard Traubner and Laura Harrington tightened the narrative structure and modernized the lyrics. This revised, more accessible version will receive its Chicago premiere courtesy of Light Opera Works under the direction of Philip Kraus; this production also restores Herbert's original score, which has been shortened a few times over the years. Ray Rayner, the longtime kiddie personality on WGN, portrays the toy maker; his 50 accomplices-in-fun include Amy Cochrane (Mary), Bonita Hyman (the Moth Queen), and Warren Moulton (Barnaby). While I can't vouch for Kraus, whose approach can be too knowingly campy for its own good, the musical guidance of Peter Lipari is sure to bring forth Herbert's romantic flair. And awesome special effects by lighting designer Christine Solger--electrical storm, shipwreck, and all--are promised. Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday, 2 PM, next Friday and Saturday, December 31 and January 1, 8 PM, and next Sunday, January 2, 2 PM, Cohn Auditorium, 'Northwestern University, 600 Emerson, Evanston; 708-869-6300.

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