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LIGHT OPERA WORKS

It's not easy to recognize George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man in The Chocolate Soldier, even though Oscar Straus's operetta is supposedly an adaptation, the first of a Shaw play. In deference to music-theater conventions of the time, Shaw's sardonic humor was watered down, the antiwar sentiments defused, and the romance sweetened. The result is an ardent courtship of a colonel's daughter named Nadina by three soldiers, only one of whom, a Swiss mercenary named Lieutenant Bumerli, is worthy of her hand: he wins out because he's the sensitive type who comes bearing chocolates instead of pistols. (Let the Freudians figure out the symbolic implications.) Though not on par with fellow Viennese and gifted melodists Lehar and Johann Strauss Jr., Straus did come up with enough entertaining tunes--polkas, mazurkas, and of course waltzes--to make The Chocolate Soldier a runaway hit in its Vienna and New York premieres. As with most operettas the flock of secondary characters--in this case the pompous major and the madcap captain who also vie for Nadina's attention--are far more lively and funny than the lovebirds. In Light Opera Works' 1987 production, Peter E. Pohlhammer as Captain Massakroff and John Holland as Colonel Popoff stood out for their mirthful, all-knowing portrayals. They're back in this revival--which is likely to match the hilarities of the first outing--with Patricia Prus as Nadina, Robert Heitzinger as Lieutenant Bumerli, and Timothy Bradley as Major Spiridoff. Tim Shaindlin conducts. Saturday, 8 PM, Sunday, 2 PM, next Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8, 8 PM, and next Sunday, June 9, 2 PM, Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University, 600 Emerson, Evanston; 847-869-6300. TED SHEN

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