Tintypes | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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TINTYPES, Light Opera Works. A revue of turn-of-the-century music would be delightful enough with heart-warmers like "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis," "Toyland," and Scott Joplin's effervescent rags, all gorgeously arranged by Mel Marvin. But this wry assortment of tuneful favorites refuses to indulge any easy nostalgia, embodying the era in representative figures--like the vaudeville comic and "colored" servant--and historical ones, like Teddy Roosevelt, radical Emma Goldman, and Anna Held, "French" sensation of the Ziegfeld Follies. And the songs create their own counterpoint: George M. Cohan's "The Yankee Doodle Boy" suggests not flag-waving jingoism but a Jewish immigrant's efforts to assimilate.

Lara Teeter's staging packages it all perfectly. Comic pantomimes mix up the characters with deft ingenuity, the warm sounds of a snazzy six-person orchestra well suit this intimate show, and a cozy auditorium and vintage dances (cakewalks, two-steps, minstrel-show shuffles) conjure up the world of a century ago.

The cast is unimprovable. Saucy Marie Svejda skims the cream from Victor Herbert's delicious "Kiss Me Again," and Jason Holland brings Chaplinesque grace to his sad-sack routines. James Rank as T.R. brims with bully confidence, and Sheridan Smith as Goldman earns her soapbox. But the big treat is Millicent Sylvester belting out Bert Williams's angry lament "Nobody" as if 1905 were now and she'd just invented heartbreak.

--Lawrence Bommer

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