A Night at the Operetta

Town Hall, NYC - July 16, 2007

Review by John Kenrick

Praise be for Scott Siegel! As creator/producer of the long-running Broadway Year By Year and Broadway Unplugged concerts at Town Hall, he has helped to keep the sound of classic Broadway happily alive in an era that seems determined to quash that sound once and for all. This year, he has initiated a new summer series, and it got off to a very enjoyable start with A Night at the Operetta.

Of course, a gala operetta concert is a tricky proposition nowadays. Siegel makes a laudable point of blending veteran stage performers with new faces, and in 2007 there are damn few newcomers who have a real empathy with operetta. A few of the participants in this concert were not quite up to the demands of the material, and tried to impose a more contemporary approach. The near sell-out Town Hall audience responded graciously to every member of the cast, but reserved its cheers for those who did the material full justice -- especially those who put down the microphones and performed their numbers "unplugged."

Highlights included a showstopping rendition of Song of Norway's "Strange Music" by William Michaels, who also joined Rebecca Eichenberger for sensational "Indian Love Call." Sarah Jane McMahon delivered a sensuous "One Kiss," and teamed with Broadway veteran Mark Jacoby for "Wanting You." Marc Kudish delivered a witty "Donkey Serenade," and cabaret star Milla Ilieva sang an endearing Giannina Mia." The amazing Fred Barton provided solid accompaniment and created some gorgeous arrangements for a back-up string section. The whole evening moved at a brisk pace, and director Dan Foster wisely had the full ensemble on stage for a final rendition of Victor Herbert's "Toyland."

Scott Siegel's narration was full of great tidbits -- I would love to know where he got some of them! One could carp that such Europeans as Offenbach or Gilbert & Sullivan deserved a place in the program -- after all, Lehar was in the otherwise all-American line-up. But with so little operetta being heard in this post-Beverly Sills world, it was a joy to encounter these great songs sung by professionals. A promising start to a new series that one hopes will become an annual tradition!

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