New comic operas are rare. New comic operas that are actually funny are vanishingly rare. The Overcoat: A Musical Tailoring is such a beast. It’s a new piece with music by James Rolfe and a libretto by Morris Panych derived from his twenty year old stage adaptation of Gogol’s short story. Originally commissioned by Tapestry Opera, the Toronto staging was under the joint auspices of that company and Canadian Stage with the work also to be staged by co-producer Vancouver Opera as part of their summer festival.
Sometimes curiosity just gets the better of me. I rather enjoyed Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Soldier so I was prepared to take a look at the 1955 made for TV version directed by Max Liebman. I probably shouldn’t have bothered. There’s so much weird here. First off the plot is changed out of all recognition, besides being cut down to 77 minutes. Nothing much is left apart from the basic idea of the heroine Nadine falling for the Swiss soldier who is chased into her bedroom rather than her bumptious fiancé Alexius. His escape and return are replaced with a silly impersonation of a visiting general and a farcical court martial. In mucking about with the plot most of the humour and essentially all the satire is lost leaving just a very silly and dated Broadway style romcom.