Friday, October 5, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Die Fledermaus

Tamara Wilson (Photo: Michael Cooper)

A Party Worth the Hangover
by Shannon Christy

According to T.S. Elliott, "We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." The COC’s production of Die Fledermaus takes us on a just such an exploration but it is with King Champagne, a smile and one hell of a hangover. 

To put on the world’s most popular operetta and do it in a way that still produces a genuine laugh and catchy innovations is a real accomplishment. Director Christopher Alden has done a marvelous job at bringing out the emotions from the actors and the levity from the situation. Michael Schade is captivating as Gabriel Von Eisenstein. He appears through all three acts as a rotund man-child who drives the action forward either plotting, mourning, or trying to escape the results of his actions. The other heroine is his wife Rosalinde, Tamara Wilson, whose touching aria about her recently departed husband and his empty coffee cup would be convincing if her lover Alfred, played by David Pomeroy, did not keep poking in and out of the scene. These are but two examples of an ensemble of brilliant performances whose success rest on the shoulders of their direction.

Die Fledermaus, in addition to great performances, casts an imaginative set and exuberant, gender bending costumes.

The only people who may have come up short in the performance could be the audience. There were several opportunities for audience participation but we were caught completely off guard as if we had no idea we were in a party. This is an operetta. It is a deliberately fun piece with some serious aspects; if you are not prepared for the interaction with the stage you can be forgiven but don’t say you have not been warned.  Even Conductor Johannes Debus got in the act by having a brief exchange with the “insulted” lawyer Dr. Blind, David Cangelosi, before resuming his role. 

Die Fledermaus, in addition to great performances, casts an imaginative set and exuberant, gender bending costumes. When the prelude begins and the curtain is raised the first thing we notice is a large pocket watch as worn in the 19th century. The watch is a central character and aids the audience by attempting to provide a concise timeline of events. It also serves as an excellent prop for the original batman or Dr. Falke, played to extreme creepiness by Peter Barrett, to pass judgment on his hapless prey. 

The costumes are used to comedic perfection: in a scene where Rosalinde is being seduced by Alfred as he sings about the consequences of choices, we are presented with the killer detail that he has chosen to wear a pink girdle. Costume Designer Constance Hoffman has done a wonderful job at blurring the lines of gender roles while providing us with a kaleidoscope of colour and imaginative designs.  
The lighting was slightly problematic. At times it was cast too broadly and it was difficult to determine who was singing and to whom, especially at the beginning of the second act while at the party of Prince Orlofsky, during the maid and her sister’s dialogue. However, this is a minor complaint that will be ironed out as the show matures.

The COC’s production of Die Fledermaus is a terrific journey of skilled performances that takes us on an exploration of our daily lives and brings us back to view them again for the first time. The set is compelling, the performances are lively and mischievous, and the costumes hilarious. In short this party is certainly worth the hangover back to reality.

Die Fledermaus runs to November 3

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