Smart, whimsical modern German operetta is funny, well-sung and melodious

Chicago Critic (IL)-June 21, 2012
Author: Tom Williams, Chicago Critic

An Operetta in 3 Acts
The Cousin from Nowhere
Music by Eduard Kunneke
Libretto by Hermann Haller & Rideamus (Fritz Oliven)
Adapted from a comedy by Max Kempner-Hochstadt
Translated by Gerald Frantzen & Hersh Glagov
Conducted by Matt Cataldi
Stage Direction by Elizabeth Margolius
Choreographed by Jorge Niedas
Produced by Chicago Folks Operetta
At Chopin Theatre, Chicago

Smart, whimsical modern German operetta is funny, well-sung and melodious

My first visit to see an operetta by the six year old Chicago Folks Operetta was a most pleasant one. Their fabulous modern German operetta, in a rhyming translation into English by Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov, is a fun time. The music by Eduard Kunneke is part traditional opera, part vaudeville, and part early Broadway musical with Viennese operetta style influences. The score is light and melodious featuring the romantic Viennese counterpart. The score has some tango melodies as well as cute, playful ditties with hints to Gilbert & Sullivan.

The story of The Cousin from Nowhere is a folksy story with only nine players about a small town girl turning eighteen who is lovestruck since eleven years old by Roderich who has disappeared from Germany for seven years. Julia (the golden voiced Elizabeth Schleicher) is being controlled by her step parents Wimpel (Rose Guccione) and Jesse (the strong voiced Robert Morrissey) who want to get rich from Julia’s marriage. When August (the terrific charismatic Geoffrey Agpalo) arrives in the village, Julia and everyone believes he is only a poor stranger. Julia and the stranger have sparks between them but Julia still pines for her Roderick. With smartly crafted hidden identities, the light comedy unfolds with many of the stock characters from Viennese operetta’s are present: the dreamy ingenue and her wise-cracking best friend; mooching relatives; the hapless, lovesick milquetoast; and, love interests for the girls–and, of course, all are happily united at the end.

Our joy at this operetta is in the fabulous 15 member orchestra, conducted by Matt Cataldi, that features mostly young musicians. The cast of classically trained singers projected and enunciate expertly despite no amplification. Many in the cast sing in the chorus at the Lyric Opera as each are budding opera stars. Elizabeth Scheicher and Geoffrey Agpalo are two to watch.

The assortment of arias ranged from ballads, to marches, to patter songs, to cute plot specific tunes, to powerful anthems. The operetta’s whimsical style is as much a crowd pleaser as is the melodious music. Nothing is lost from the English translation and the tight production values make the show zip along nicely.

Come discover both the excellent casting and production values of Chicago Folks Operetta and the joys of popular, but seldom produced, 20th Century German operetta – The Cousin from Nowhere. For a ticket price of $30 – $35 – $40, you’ll not find a better, more entertaining, musical treat. Operettas can be fun and cleverly well sung- and – The Cousin from Nowhere is one of those gems- don’t miss it!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: June 21, 2012

For more info checkout The Cousin from Nowhere at theatreinchicago.com

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