My Night at Jacques' | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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My Night at Jacques'

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My Night at Jacques', Light Opera Works, McGaw YMCA Child Care Center Auditorium. Jacques Offenbach's lilting melodies are as effortlessly elegant and contagiously playful as those of his master, Mozart. Showcased on this program are two frolicsome one-acts, delicious trifles from 1861 and 1868 delightfully restored with sparkling English lyrics by Gregg Opelka, a sprightly book by Reader critic Jack Helbig, and a two-piano arrangement.

Spoofing the pretensions of a Parisian arriviste (just as Moliere did 200 years earlier), Your Presence Requested depicts a musicale given by pretentious climber Choufleuri (a hilarious John Payonk). When three famous Italian singers fail to grace his soiree, Choufleuri, his daughter, and her fiance replace them. Offenbach's spoof of bel canto style--a charming pastiche of Donizetti and early Verdi--perfectly suits Michael Kotze's terrific cast, notably Stan Q. Wash and Pamela Shandrow as the histrionic lovers. Though played a trifle broadly, especially Anthony E. Barton's idiotic Belgian valet, the fun is incontestable.

Featuring an aria to a favorite bird and a duet about lovers' favorite musical instruments,The Island of Tulipatan is a gender-bending romp in which the strangely effete heir (Shandrow in trousers) to this imaginary impoverished realm is drawn to the preternaturally butch daughter (Erich Buchholz in demure drag) of the court chamberlain. The situation gets resolved ingeniously, skirting any hint of homosexual panic. Tom Burch's bijou set is complemented by Natasha Vuchurovich Djukich's sweetly caricaturing costumes in the style of Daumier.

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