The Players try something different with the pastiche Red Hot Operetta.
By Kay Kipling
Apparently Players fans love their operettas (it’s said they frequently request them to be performed), and perhaps that’s true, no matter what adulterated form this brand of musical theater takes.
So Players artistic director Jeffery Kin tried something different with this show, which he wrote and conceived. It’s not any one operetta; instead, he’s stitched together bits and pieces from several Gilbert and Sullivan works, with nods to The Desert Song, The Student Prince and other well-known pieces by other composers as well. It’s not a revue, exactly, since he also tries to string together a plot line: The dreaded Pirates of Penzance, headed by the Pirate King (Randy Garmer, having a field day), abduct several female characters (Ruth, Buttercup and Josephine—sound familiar, G&S lovers?); and their menfolk (including the Captain, Sir Joseph and Ralph Rackstraw) spend the rest of the show trying to get them back, on an across-the-globe journey that takes them to many places including the Orient (after all, we have to get The Mikado in there, too).
It’s outlandish, although perhaps not much more outlandish than some of the plots of the “real” operettas the show is based on, if you think about it. There are advantages to this idea: First, the Players spend less money on rights and production values (it looks like they raided the theater’s closets for costumes from past productions); second, it does give several of the show’s best singers a chance to demonstrate what they can do on certain lovely and familiar melodies. (Although the visiting singers from Key Chorale, seated near the wings, are rather wasted here.)
There are also occasional clever bits of business, with winks and nods to the audience about the silliness of it all. Kin and director Jack Eddleman have assembled a good team here; musical director Joyce Valentine is a stalwart who goes above and beyond the call of duty, and the show is made more appealing throughout by the sprightly yet simple choreography of veteran Jimmy Hoskins.
Which is hardly to say that Red Hot Operetta is an undiluted pleasure. The cast works hard, and there are energetic and generously broad performances by Tanya Lewis, Susan Cole and Kaylene McCaw as the kidnapped ladies, among others.
But you wouldn’t feel as if you’d missed anything if you had to step out for an extended bathroom break. To be honest, you wouldn’t feel as if you’d missed anything if you skipped the show altogether. Red hot? I’m afraid it’s rather tepid.
Still, if you really have to have a helping of operettish music, and if you really love your Players Theatre, Red Hot Operetta continues through Nov. 8. Call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.