Who knew Frosch could be funny?

Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at the St. Lawrence Centre last night.  It’s a will crafted production; basically traditional as to costumes and sets and with a generous amount of more topical jokes added to the dialogue (both dialogue and musical numbers are performed in English).  The one thing about it that is a bit different and much to be praised is that the jailer Frosch, played by director Bill Silva-Marin, is actually funny and sings pretty well for a guy who doesn’t sing a lot anymore.  The schtick is that he is obsessed with singing and insists on singing lessons from Alfred (or here Alfredo) when he appears in the jail in place of Eisenstein.  The singing lessons are kind of a parody with plenty of jokes about vocal production and a fair bit of physical humour.  All this is actually set up from the beginning by making Alfred a rather larger role than usual with a fair amount of interpolated snatches of Verdi and Puccini.  It may not sound that radical but it does liven up the third act which all too often can be pretty dull and anti-climactic.

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Frosch aside it’s conventional but well done.  The best singing comes from the ladies with   the appropriately showy coloratura from Caitlin Wood as Adele and a richer, more ladylike tone from Lara Ciekiewicz as Rosalinda.  The men are good too with solid singing from Adam Fisher as Eisenstein and Cian Horrobin making the most of his extra opportunities as Alfred.  The minor roles are all perfectly adequate.  Which leaves Elizabeth Beeler’s Orlovsky.  I’m not sure what to make of it really.  It’s a vocally mannered interpretation but that’s not that unusual.  Are the hooty top notes deliberate?  I don’t know.  She certainly conveys Orlovsky’s sense of ennui well; almost too well perhaps.

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I think the only thing I missed was any real sense of connection or passion between Rosalinda and her husband or Alfred.  If she’s thrown over a a more exciting existence to become a respectable bürgerliche Hausfrau she’s done a very thorough job!  The twelve piece band directed by Derek Bate sounded adequately Viennese.

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So there you go.  A very decent Fledermaus that delivers on the traditional elements (for better or worse) with the bonus of a funny Frosch.  There are further performances tonight and on December 31st and January 2nd at 8pm.  There’s also a matinée tomorrow but that’s sold out.

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Photo credits: Gary Beechey

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