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Nicholas Williams and Kathleen Krumbach in rehearsals for Putting It Together!

Moss Island Productions and the Earlville Opera House are presenting Stephen Sondheim’s PUTTING IT TOGETHER at the Earlville Opera House 18 East Main St, Earlville, NY.  Putting it Together celebrates Sondheim’s music and lyrics with songs from many of his greatest hits.

Every Sondheim song is a three-act play set to beautiful music. They’re not easy to learn, but once you have, you never forget them, because he writes magnificent poetry. If I have to choose a favorite number, it would be ‘Anyone Can Whistle,’ although I love all of them.” —Carol Burnett, performer (The Wife in Putting It Together)

The action in PUTTING IT TOGETHER takes place at an all-night, black-tie party in a penthouse. The hosts, a middle-aged couple, face their disillusions and marital troubles. A younger, less jaundiced couple struggles with their own ambitions and desires, while a commentator oversees and influences the action.

The revue celebrates the music of Stephen Sondheim, who is the winner of an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer) including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Laurence Olivier Award. (wiki)

I’ve often referred to Stephen Sondheim as today’s Shakespeare. Like Shakespeare, there are so many layers to his words and imagery. You can revisit their works time and time again, and there is always something new to discover.” —Barbara Cook, performer (Star of Mostly Sondheim, Performer in Sondheim on Sondheim)

THE CAST:

Janet Engle – Woman 1

Janet Engle is enjoying her 2nd production at the Earville Opera House after playing Yum-Yum in last summer’s production of The Mikado. Before settling in Clinton, NY, Janet started her theater career as Peter Pan in sixth grade, followed by various theater productions and musical venues around the country. She most recently appeared as Mrs. Patrick in A Man of No Importance at the Redhouse Theater in Syracuse, Diana Bingley in I Love You Because with Moss Island Productions, and Mrs. Walker in Tommy with Outcast International. A huge fan of his brilliant work, this is Janet’s 4th and most challenging Sondheim show. She adores Julie Andrews, and is so pleased to even attempt performing the daunting role that she triumphed in on Broadway.

Kathleen Krumbach – Woman 2

Kat is thrilled to be a part of this cast. She has also performed with HPYT, Players of Utica, Outcast, and Rome Summerstage. Her last onstage performance was in I Love You Because, directed by Chris Bord. Kat is attending Syracuse University in the fall to study music education.

Nicholas Williams – Man 1

Nicholas is a sophomore at SUNY Fredonia studying Music Education and Theater. He performed in his first Gilbert and Sullivan show The Mikado last year at the Earlville Opera House and is excited to return to perform in his first Sondheim production. He has also performed in other productions of Annie, Les Miserables, Little Shop of Horrors, Hairspray, and 9 to 5.

Chris Bord – Man 2

Chris’s recent stage appearances include God of Carnage (Players of Utica), The Who’s Tommy (Outcast), Death of a Salesman (Palace Players), and Avenue Q (Players of Utica). In 2014 Chris directed and appeared in the musical I Love You Because, as well as the political drama The God Game. He also directed Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado at The Earlville Opera House.   Chris thanks everyone who made this production happen – Patti and the team at EOH, all of the actors and tech crew, Pat and Christine and Mary, Pea Rob, and especially his very patient family.

John Murphy – Man 3

John is happy to play the mischievous Man 3. He has performed in several Sondheim productions at Players of Utica – Sweeney Todd, Side by Side by Sondheim and last fall’s production of Company. Other local credits include Godspell, The Full Monty, and three premiere productions: an opera, Molly of the Mohawks, and two musicals, In Person and Bawdy Town. John lives in Clinton with three fellow thespians, his wife Marilee and sons Nick and Jack. He’d like to dedicate each performance of “Merrily We Roll Along” to his wonderful wife, because that never gets old, and neither does she.

Putting It Together:  Draws its title from a song in Sunday in the Park with George, it was devised by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie. The revue has received several productions, beginning with its premiere in England in 1992, Broadway in 1999 and the West End in 2014. The revue came about due to many requests for a new version of Sondheim’s 1976 revue, Side by Side by Sondheim. Having resisted a new show, he was finally convinced by producer Cameron Mackintosh, and Julia McKenzie was brought in to assist.

Described by Frank Rich of The New York Times as “now the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater,” Stephen Sondheim‘s most famous works include (as composer and lyricist) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. He also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy. (wiki)

Show times are: Friday, July 24 8:00pm, Saturday, July 25 8:00 pm, and Sunday, July 26 3:00 pm.

Admission is $17, $15 for EOH members, and $12 for students.

Link to EOH event page: showtimes and links to tickets at bottom of page

Sample of the title song…Putting it Together

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Intrigue! Infidelity! Putting It Together has it all!

Moss Island Productions and the Earlville Opera House are presenting Stephen Sondheim’s Putting it Together at the Earlville Opera House 18 East Main St, Earlville, NY.

Show times:

Friday, July 24 8:00pm,

Saturday, July 25 8:pm,

Sunday, July 26 3:00pm.

Putting it Together celebrates Sondheim’s music and lyrics with songs from shows including Company, Into the Woods, Follies, A Little Night Music and even Assassins. Many of his greatest hits are compiled into one revue that brings new meaning to his well-loved classics. The setting is an anniversary party, where two couples and an intriguing uninvited guest gather for the evening. The characters, and their relationships to each other, are revealed through the songs – in the alternately surprising, humorous and poignant ways that are uniquely Stephen Sondheim.

Pat Stone is the director. She has directed opera productions, opera scenes, and opera outreach programs for various New York City and regional opera companies across the country including Central City Opera, Baltimore Opera, Tulsa Opera, Utah Opera, Chautauqua Opera, the National Opera Association, Inwood Opera, and Regina Opera. Productions include Madam Butterfly, La Traviata, La Boheme, La tragedie de Carmen, Emmeline, and The Face on the Barroom Floor, also designing the sets for many of these shows.

Mary Sugar is the pianist. She spent 11 years as a musical director, pianist, and teacher in New York City, where she worked on and off-Broadway, at Lincoln Center, and in many other venues. She went around the world as conductor/pianist for Leslie Uggams, and did a concert tour of Tuscany with singer/songwriter Amanda McBroom and George Ball. Mary has also worked with Clay Aiken, Connie Francis, James Naughton, Larry Gatlin, Charles Strouse, John Kander & Fred Ebb, Sheldon Harnick, Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones, Marni Nixon, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Barbara Cook, Lonny Price, Dorothy Loudon, Shirley Jones, Martin Vidnovic, Sandy Duncan, Bruce Vilanche, The Diamonds, The Drifters, Lillias White, Adrian Zmed, Charo, Cathy Rigby, The Irish Tenors, The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, and many, many others.

Christine Krumbach, Sarah Bord and Susan Bord round out the Musical Direction/ Choreography, stage management and lighting crew.

The actor/singers are Janet Engle, Kathleen Krumbach, Chris Bord, John Murphy and Nicholas Williams. We’ll follow up with more on the actors in our next post!

Putting It Together Admission is $17, $15 for EOH members, and $12 for students. The Earlville Opera House is wheelchair-accessible with a ramp and a lift. Visit the Earlville Galleries with three new quilt exhibits and the Artisan’s Gift Shop. The Arts Café will open one hour before the performance, serving freshly baked desserts and coffee and tea.

For more information, or to reserve your seats, call 315-691-3550 or order online at http://www.earlvilleoperahouse.com. The Opera House is located at 18 East Main Street, Earlville.

Nicholas Williams and Kathleen Krumbach in rehearsals for Putting It Together!

Nicholas Williams and Kathleen Krumbach in rehearsals for Putting It Together!

On behalf of the Earlville Opera House community, we want to extend a huge thanks to everyone who helped put together this weekend’s production of the Mikado.  The energy on that stage was contagious.  Everyone who saw it could feel the joy and enthusiasm of the cast.  And one knows that behind the scenes there was a great deal of thought and care taken by folks who know what they are doing.  A job well done!  We heard many many compliments on your behalf.  We greatly appreciate your time, creativity and generosity of spirit making this production happen for our community.
To director, Chris Bord, thank you for saving our production!  And thank you for sharing your process; it was a pleasure to gain a deeper understanding about the production through your blog posts.  We deeply appreciate all that you did making this mini-miracle happen.
Thanks for supporting the arts in central New York!
Mikado Poster image

The poster image design by Frank Schram was dynamite!

Here’s the program from this weekend’s show: (click to enlarge)
Mikado Program
Microsoft Word - Mikado Program.doc

 

Yesterday National Public Radio did a story on the continued friction about the Seattle production of The Mikado.  Last night was the opening of The Mikado at EOH.  Here’s food for thought from Director Chris Bord in relation to the EOH production shared from his blog 7/24/14:

Members of the 2014 EOH cast of The Mikado at rehearsal.

Members of the 2014 EOH cast of The Mikado at rehearsal.

The Atlantic.com published an article yesterday called “Opera’s Old-Fashioned Race Problem.” The impetus for the story was a critic’s reaction to a production of The Mikado, which starred “38 white amateur performers.” Sharon Pian Chan wrote in The Seattle Times: “It’s yellowface, in your face,” and also criticized the lack of Asian-American performers in the show. The Atlantic article suggested that operas like The Mikado must be updated to stay relevant to contemporary audiences (and presumably to not offend critics.)

The story caught my eye because I’m in the midst of a production of The Mikado, which will be presented at The Earlville Opera House in August. I picked the show as a Gilbert & Sullivan novice – I knew them by reputation but didn’t know their work firsthand. EOH asked me to direct a Gilbert & Sullivan opera, which narrowed the pieces I had to choose from. The Mikado has been called the most-performed piece of musical theater in history; I read that it is always being produced, somewhere in the world. Gilbert’s libretto is clever and very funny; Sullivan’s music feels both perfectly matched to the words and utterly familiar.

On a practical level, my production is open to the same criticism as the Seattle amateurs’. We have no Asian-American performers, simply because none came to audition. I’m not insensitive to the question of racial appropriateness – I’d never think of mounting a production of Dreamgirls, for example, with a predominantly white cast. But The Mikado is not “about” Japan – it is set in Japan as a vehicle for Gilbert to satirize his native England. Gwynn Guilford, the author of The Atlantic article, acknowledges this point, but suggests that using racial novelty simply as a theatrical device is perhaps more reprehensible than just telling a Japanese story with British actors.

Guilford doesn’t mention that The Mikado has frequently been set in non-Japanese environments, dating back to the 1920’s. There have been “Hot” Mikados (1920’s American gangsters), “Straight” Mikados (English settings), and Mikados set in boardrooms, army units, and various political organizations. Gilbert’s satire (dealing primarily with political structures and stupid laws and customs) is versatile and essentially universal. One story has the Queen of England demanding that productions of The Mikado be suspended during the Japanese ambassador’s visit, only to find that the ambassador had already seen it and found nothing applicable to Japan.

I didn’t immediately know how I’d set The Mikado, which is one of the primary directorial concerns. This was partly because our creative team was very late coming together. It took a long time to find a music director, and choreographer, set, costume, lighting people (etc.) were also scarce. A theatrical project is an immense collaboration where everybody contributes and the product reflects all contributions. The director hopefully shapes those into something that provides entertainment and value to the audience, or at the very least makes a cohesive artistic statement.

So… The stage is bare; even the upstage curtain is missing, and a lonely stagehand sweeps. A chalkboard at the front has a list of crossed-out (imaginary) names. The Mikado overture plays dimly through the sound system, remnant of a show that clearly won’t be happening. Following the overture, a small orchestra quickly takes their places and the opening notes of If You Want to Know Who We Are are played. Suddenly, six men stand from various seats around the theater and begin singing. They are certainly not actors – they have no costumes or makeup. Far upstage, dimly seen, masked, robed figures march out and observe. The house lights are still on. The men from the audience make their way to the stage and continue the song, and the house lights begin to fade. From nothing, and with none of the expected scenery, theater begins to happen out of thin air, as if called forth by a memory, or tradition.

Our setting evolved from necessity, and it comments on that. At the same time, each of the performers inhabits a character – we are not winking at the audience, as if to say, “Look how clever and meta we are.” I learned that re-setting The Mikado in a different place and time would require extensive re-writing of Gilbert’s words. While we did change two instances of the word “nigger,” everything else is as written. Again, this was partly from necessity – altering words means not only trying to match one of history’s great lyricists, but also distributing those changes to everyone and possibly asking them to re-memorize parts.

I haven’t seen the Seattle production which was so unfavorably mentioned in their newspaper, so I don’t know how much the “yellowface” was played up. Our production gets a lot of mileage from prop fans and parasols, but aside from actors being costumed in robes there is nothing explicitly “Japanese” about what we’re doing. We were interested to learn that some of the Japanese phrases in Gilbert’s lyrics are just nonsense – they were apparently chosen for a quality of sound instead of for authenticity. I think Chan’s “yellowface” reference was intended to suggest “blackface,” which strikes me as critical malpractice. The only way The Mikado is guilty of a blackface minstrel show-type offense would be if those had been performed in blackface to satirize white politics and customs. In other words, if blackface was a device to actually poke fun at whites.

There must be a better choice, when considering older material, than either updating or not presenting it at all. Contemporary audiences might be shocked at what comes across as anti-semitism in Shakespeare, or as racist (and sexist) in The Mikado. But that ignores something which can be gained by re-examining older works: the opportunity to reflect on changing societal attitudes over the passage of time. For example, I believe that more harm than good is done by “cleaning up” Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to more comfortably appeal to a modern audience. The story might remain, but the author’s intention to provoke a reaction is diminished. To be fair, Guilford’s article mentions some alternatives to traditional all-white casting in Western productions of various operas. These are mostly obvious – use performers from a variety of traditions and ethnicities to add depth and clarity to the original story. (Nice when such performers are available and interested.)

I am all for racial and ethnic sensitivity (I don’t like the term “politically correct,” which automatically demeans the effort.) At the same time, we live in a society that has figured out how to exploit such issues for various kinds of gain. We’ve seen Gary Oldman and Jonah Hill on the news lately for having uttered certain offensive phrases; both actors have subsequently transfixed the media with a talk-show tour of abject apology, seeming to emerge with reputations not only intact but enlarged and millions of new eyes trained on their next moves. A cynic might credit a savvy PR person for a subversively brilliant campaign.

The Mikado is both of its time and outside its time. By that I mean certain elements (the use of “nigger,” as well as gender and to a lesser extent cultural stereotypes) can be linked to how W.S. Gilbert and his crowd thought and talked. But at the same time, The Mikado is outside its time because of the brilliance of the words and music. It is worth revisiting because it is an archetype that has influenced so much else. A recent article in Vulture.com suggested while viewers of The Simpsons television program could appreciate episodes without ever comprehending the satirical references, the experience becomes far richer once those references are known and understood. I’ve seen this myself as we’ve delved into The Mikado. Once you rehearse and stage the number If You Want to Know Who We Are, the influence behind the Heigh-Ho number in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs suddenly becomes clear. The original movie poster for The Little Shop of Horrors features the tagline “the flowers that kill in the Spring, TRA-LA,” which is much funnier once you’ve seen The Mikado. Not to mention various phrases in The Mikado which have become part of the English lexicon: “Pooh-Bah,” “a short, sharp shock,” “a little list,” and “let the punishment fit the crime,” among others.

Gilbert and Sullivan contributed to modern musical theater by thoroughly integrating words and music with the story being told. The approach has been reinforced and refined ever since, but it arguably originated its present form with G&S. The spoken lyrics are often continued in songs, and very few of the songs could simply be omitted without sacrificing the story. That’s a long-winded way to say it’s a masterpiece.

We dismiss masterpieces at our peril. John Lennon said The Beatles were bigger than Jesus and inspired church groups to burn Beatles records. No matter what you think about Lennon personally, the work remains. The same can be said for any number of examples. Let’s agree that appreciating a work of popular art does not necessarily endorse any of its author’s views, or perpetuate them. I’d go further and suggest that substantial changes to the original work might sacrifice something essential in the piece. The perspective provided by distance (which includes time and also cultural, experiential, etc.) is something we each bring to a work of art. It should be encouraged.

Thanks Chris!  More about the EOH Mikado ~ community theater supporting the arts in our community, a fundraiser for the Earlville Opera House!

fanOften considered the most-performed musical theater piece in history! The Mikado comes to the historic stage of the Earlville Opera House this August 8, 9 and 10. The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu is a ROMANTIC MUSICAL COMEDY in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It’s about the son of the Mikado of Japan, who has fallen for a girl who is engaged to her guardian.  He hides his true identity to follow the girl to Titipu and gets caught up in a topsy turvy political intrigue that borders on the ridiculous.

HERE ARE THE DIRECTORS:

Director Chris Bord
Chris recently directed the musical I Love You Because, in February 2014.  He’s incredibly proud of this Mikado cast – break a leg!

Music Director John Krause
John has participated in hundreds of musical productions over the years, including many G&S pieces.  By day, he teaches music at Herkimer Central Schools.

Stage Manager Sarah Bord
Sarah recently stage managed A Dancer’s Journey for MV Ballet, and hopes to become a professional stage manager. She thanks her theater family for their support.

3168167HERE’S THE CAST...
The Mikado of Japan Craig Risser
Craig has sung the chorus of 39 operas, most recently L’Elisir d’amore with West Bay Opera in Palo Alto CA, 8 principal roles in G&S operettas and 17 years with Schola Cantorum.

Nanki-Poo, His Son, disguised as a wandering minstrel and in love with Yum-Yum Ben Stovall
Ben is a rising sophomore at Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute, majoring in chemistry and minoring in musical performance. This is his first G&S production and he is very excited.

Ko-Ko,The Lord High Executioner of Titipu Steve Scheinman
Steve is a perennial EOH Savoyard since 1985.  He’s been the Lord Chancellor, the Captain of the Pinafore, the Duke of Plaza-Toro, and the Major-General (twice!), among others.

Pooh-Bah, Lord High Everything Else Thom Capozzella
Thom has performed in Ruddigore (Robin/Ruthvern) and The Mikado (Pish-Tush) in addition to directing and/or acting in many other shows in CNY.

Pish-Tush, A Noble Lord Buff Lingo
Past G&S performances for Buff include The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Trial by Jury, Ruddigore, and The Gondoliers.

the-mikadaYum-Yum, A Ward of Ko-Ko, also engaged to Ko-Ko Janet Engle
Janet Engle is from Clinton.  She was recently in I Love You Because and Tommy, and is honored to be joining the history of performances at EOH!

Pitti-Sing, A Ward of Ko-Ko Sarah Hasegawa
Sarah’s past EOH credits include Lady Sangazure in The Sorcerer, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance and Casilda in The Gondoliers.

Peep-Bo, A Ward of Ko-Ko Heather Bagnall
Heather has been a part of the EOH G&S performances since 1990 as both cast member & costume designer.  Thank you to the wonderful cast!

Katisha, An elderly lady, in love with Nanki-Poo Lisa Jones
Lisa is a soprano who performs in the Utica/Rome area. She is excited to portray Katisha in her first EOH production. Thanks for the opportunity!

Chorus: Maid Miranda Riley
Miranda is an EOH veteran with many G&S operettas in her resume.  She is a student at Clinton HS, where she also performs.

Chorus: Nobleman Joe Caruso
After 12 years, Joe returned to the stage (Utica) last fall for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Our Town.

Chorus: Nobleman Robert Christman
Normally, Robert mostly performs in front of college psychology students.  This is his first time on a non-academic stage!

Chorus: Nobleman Nick Williams
Nick is a frequent performer on area stages.  Most recently, he appeared in the musical 9 to 5 for Rome Capitol Summerstage.

Chorus: Nobleman Griffin Bagnall-Shenkel
Griffin has sung in 12 shows & sings in the Hamilton College Masterworks Choral.  Has participated in EOH G&S productions since he was 5. He is a high school freshman.

Chorus: Nobleman Tyler Bagnall-Shenkel
Tyler began singing for the EOH G&S productions when he was 5, sings with the Hamilton College Masterworks Choral, and has sung in 9 shows. Tyler is in 7th grade.

Chorus: Nobleman Joseph Bagnall
Joseph Bagnall is in 6th grade and is making his stage debut.  Joe plays trumpet in school and is having a great time with the Mikado.

Rehearsals for the Mikado are going on in Utica and at the EOH.

Rehearsals for the Mikado are going on in Utica and at the EOH.

 Come see the production at the Earlville Opera House!

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