A ‘Merry’ ol’ time with laughs and operatic rendezvous

Although the cast and crew of Opera Theater only had five weeks to put “The Merry Widow” together, their performance was both emotional and funny.

“The Merry Widow is an operetta that is as difficult as it is beautiful,” Briana Dixon, stage manager, said. “I could not be more proud of the cast, the crew and the production as a whole.”

Opera Theatre brought the romantic operetta to life last weekend with bright costumes and ball gowns, feathers and fans and daring, dancing Can-Can girls.

The show opens with a celebration at the Marsovian embassy in Paris where men are discussing the richest widow in Marsovia, Anna Glavari. Baron Zeta is afraid she will marry a Frenchman and her $40 million will be lost from Marsovia forever. Since “The Fatherland” is failing economically, he can’t allow that to happen.

The widow Anna, played by Stephanie Lee Overton and Katy Reimer, makes her entrance on stage in a sizzling red ball gown and black gloves – hardly an outfit appropriate for mourning the death of her husband. But she isn’t interested in any of the gold diggers. She has her sights set on higher ground – Count Danilo (Erik Ransom).

Danilo is a skirt-chasing, boozing aristocrat who’s motto is to “fall in love often, get engaged rarely and marry never.” He was in love with Anna once, but couldn’t marry her because she was poor. The experience left him bitter and unattached.

The story is told through rousing dance hall music and soft ballads with the orchestra reflecting the emotions of the characters. Reimer’s voice had the beautiful swell of an ocean wave, washing over the audience as the music filled the hall. When she sang “Villa” at the opening of the second act, the chorus rose from the background as though the very garden echoed her song.

Yet, the key to “The Merry Widow” is the comedy. Chad Flynn was hilarious as the Baron, a man whose patriotism blinds him to his wife Valencienne’s affair. In fact, the Baron even encourages it, asking her to attract Camille de Rosillon so he won’t be interested in the widow.

The other men also encourage their wives to “distract” Anna’s would-be suitors, turning the show into a comedy of secret affairs and clandestine meetings. Everyone becomes suspicious of everyone else when a mysterious fan with “I love you” written on it is passed around the ball room.

“I have never been in an opera or operetta,” Colleen Gill, who played Valencienne on Thursday and Saturday, said. “Most people on campus have never seen one. (It’s) a great outlet beyond strictly Broadway material.”

“The Merry Widow” was also the first opera for James Holde, who played Camille.

“This show has been a wonderful learning experience for me,” Holden said. “Our cast is a lot of fun.”

The show was fun for the audience, too.

“I didn’t expect it to be so good,” Megan Bagvilio, freshman open-options major, said. “I was just expecting to hear some good music. It was hysterical.”

A crowd favorite was the song “Girls, Girls, Girls.” The men all converged on stage in their tuxedos to form a male chorus line, kicking up their heels as they sang about how hard it is to understand women.

The play ended with the whole cast singing “Girls, Girls, Girls” as red balloons and pink confetti fell from the ceiling. If anything, the show proved that a woman is, indeed, “too much for a man.”