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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Town Hall

By Matt Windman

  Sarah Jane McMahon and Mark Jacoby

When the American musical theater was still in an early stage of development in the 1920s, musical comedy (big jokes, light emotions, American setting) and operetta (lush music, big emotions, European setting) duked it out for control of its future. Though musical comedy ultimately won, the works of Victor Herbert, Rudolf Friml and Sigmund Romberg left behind a rich history that is more often than not ignored nowadays. Even when Encores! revives an operetta like The New Moon or Kismet, the critics typically scoff that it feels too outdated.

A Night at the Operetta, the first of three consecutive Monday night concerts making up the The Summer Broadway Festival at Town Hall, mirrored the development of Broadway Unplugged, another Broadway By the Year spin-off. After showcasing a number of performers unmiked ("sound design according to God," per creator (Scott Siegel) at the Broadway By the Year concerts, Siegel developed an entire night of singing without modern amplification. Now, years after allowing performers like Marc Kudisch to serenade operetta classics, Siegel finally dedicated an entire night to it.

A total of 19 songs were performed from such works as The Desert Song, The New Moon, Rose Marie, The Student Prince, The Vagabond King, Song of Norway, Naughty Marietta, The Red Mill and Babes in Toyland. The fourteen-person cast included Mark Jacoby, Christine Noll, Karen Murphy, Paul Schoeffler , Sarah Jane McMahon,, Manu Narayan, Gavin Lee, and Kudisch, himself, among others.

Unlike a typical Broadway By the Year concert, where the songs consist of both well-known ditties and rarities, A Night at the Operetta consisted strictly of A-list material like "Maxim's," "Italian Street Song," "Song of the Vagabonds," "Indian Love Call," "Wanting You" and "Toyland." This resulted in a consistently entertaining evening, but one that felt strangely incomplete. If A Night at the Operetta becomes a yearly event, Siegel and company will be able to delve deeper into the genre.

Some of the many highlights included Marc Kudisch's entrance at the top of Act Two riding a stuffed donkey prior to singing "Donkey Serenade" from the 1937 film version of Friml's The Firefly; Gavin Lee's song-and-tap dance of "The Streets of New York" from The Red Mill; Manu Narayan's (Bombay Dreams) intense performance of "Song of the Vagabonds" from The Vagabond King; Christine Noll's ebullient "Italian Street Song" from Naughty Marietta; and Rebecca Eichenberger and William Michals' sweetly romantic "Indian Love Call" from Rose Marie.


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