WASHINGTON, September 11, 2013 – Howdy, pardners! If ya gather round that there Source theater place on 14th St. NW some evenings this month, ya might just catch some of the doggondest music thee-ayter that folks in these here parts has ever seen. We’re talkin’ ‘bout that Wild West opera that German fella Mozart wrote, that “Abduction from the Seraglio” show being put on at the Source by them nice, talented In Series people.
Who’d-a ever knowed this Mozart was so good he could write a show about things that never happened whilst he was alive?
Actually, when we git in the thee-ayter and look in the program, we find out Mozart had a little help from a modern American gal named Bari Biern. She took Mozart’s original show, written in German, brung it into English, added some good jokes, and switched the action from Turkey to the American Wild West so’s we could relate to it better I reckon.
In the German version, you had these four Europeans that somehow got trapped in this Turkish harem. Belmonte is the hero, and his servant is Pedrillo. Belmonte’s gal pal and the show’s heroine is Konstanze and her servant is named Blonde, after her hair color, I guess, and Pedrillo’s got a thing for her.
They all want to git out of that there harem and back home again. But the big boss they call the Pasha don’t want them to go, particularly them fine European gals, and he expects his evil overseer Osmin to keep ‘em in line.
The In Series people change all this. Konstanze is now famous English actress Lily Langtry (soprano Heather Bingham) who’s managed by Mr. Belmont (tenor Joseph Haughton). Pedrillo (tenor Nephi Sanchez) is Belmont’s comical sidekick, and Blonde is still his sweetie and still blonde, except in America she’s Blondie (soprano CarrieAnne Winter).
The Pasha is now the famous Judge Roy Bean (Scott Sedar), also knowed as “The Law West of the Pecos” and renowned for the most and best hangin’s in those there parts. Most likely he’d never passed the bar, though he’d surely had a drink in quite a few.
That nasty Osmin is back, too, ‘xcept here they spell it Osmond (bass Jeffrey Tarr). He’s still one mean hombre.
This all seems kinda crazy, but it works, ‘cause the real-life Judge Roy Bean had this thing for Lily Langtry and likely fancied to marry her if he could. In real life we don’t think he ever seen her in person.
But this show takes some liberty with the truth, like them politicians here in Washington, so the Judge and his boys kidnap Miss Langtry and Blondie. Belmont and Pedrillo try to save ‘em. It’s all pretty funny.
What’s best about this show is Mozart’s great tunes and how good them singers sing ‘em. Joseph Haughton who sings Belmont, he’s got him one fine tenor voice. It’s smooth as silk, and he just tucks that perfect phrasing of his in there like he’s been doing it practically forever. Downright impressive.
And Nephi Sanchez who sings Pedrillo? His physical comedy is right amusing. But he can sing real good, too, and can sustain some real quality in his delivery even when he’s doing all them crazy things. We could swear we seen and enjoyed this same fella singing the part of Tito in this other Mozart thing the In Series done, but he may of been wearing a different costume.
CarrieAnne Winter was as cute as a button as Blondie. She got a real sweet voice too that just sorta curls all silvery-like around them tricky passages Mozart liked to write so’s his favorite sopranos could have fun and show off.
Heather Bingham, as Lily Langtry, was also real good. She sings some pretty complicated stuff, too, but she can handle it ‘cause she has what them highfalutin’ critics like to call “a sophisticated and well-supported instrument,” which most likely is a very good thing. We did think Miz Bingham was straining a might for them top notes in the show’s first act, but she cleared that up in the second part.
We have to save our biggest applause for Jeffrey Tarr, who sings the role of Judge Bean’s vile enforcer Osmond. The perfect way he climbs down to them deep, dark notes and holds ‘em…it’s kinda scary, but kind of impressive. He’s plum loco in this part, and most clearly relishes being the bad guy. But dagnabbit, he can really sing. And when he adds in that zany Texas-style accent of his, he dang well brings down the house.
Last but not least is the Judge. Mozart didn’t give the Pasha nothin’ to sing, so this here’s still an actin’ part. But Scott Sedar, who plays Judge Roy Bean, still cuts a fine figure, elegant, threatening, but always in charge, comin’ across maybe like Mr. Lincoln did in his day. As a bonus, the In Series sneaked in a little Western-style tune for him to sing. Sounded good to us.
We shouldn’t forget them fine-lookin’ chorus girls who sometimes play fellas. Marta Kostian, Sarah Anne Sillers, Emily Kester, and Alexandra Linn were just swell.
And how about that great little orchestra the In Series sprung for, all under the bodacious musical direction of Stanley Thurston. They sounded real good, too.
We’re also sure everyone in the house appreciated Tom Mallan’s truly inspired directing. Them fancy little dance numbers, choreographed by Angelisa Gillyard, also helped keep things lively.
We loved this show and can never figure out how the In Series keeps doing this sort of thing without the support of at least a few dozen real-life Pashas. You 1% people out there should give ‘em a hand, pronto.
Everyone else, just go see the In Series’ Judge Roy Bean Wild West version of this swell Mozart comic opera. The show’s still at the Source (1835 14th Street NW near T) through September 22.
Rating: *** ½ (Three and one-half stars out of four.)
For tickets and information on the In Series’ Wild West “Abduction from the Seraglio,” visit their website at www.inseries.org. Ticket prices: $20 (students and youth); $37 (seniors); and $40 general admission. Remaining performances: September 12 at 7:30 p.m.; September 14, 20, and 21 at 8 p.m.; and September 15 and 22 at 3 p.m. Free post-show dialogue with members of the cast and crew following the September 15 matinee performance.
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