Monday, October 29, 2012

Inside "Sideshow!"

An old joke goes:  ‘Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?’ And the punchline is:  ‘Practice’.  The answer and the process is the same for every theatrical or musical endeavor.  Practice, practice, practice.  Or as we call it, ‘rehearsal.' 

In one corner of the mostly empty Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the cast of Sideshow! is in rehearsal in order to polish the show before the first audience arrives on November 1st.  Stage Director Kelly Van Oosbree gives notes following a run through of Gallantry changing 'blocking’ or staging, adjusting the travel pattern of a particular prop throughout the show, and refining some comedic timing.  The talented cast listens attentively and adjusts accordingly, and then receives some notes on the musical aspect of the run-through from pianist and music director for Sideshow!, Beth Nielsen.  Throughout, the process is enhanced by gales of laughter from the cast and the director.  Combining singing, while acting, being funny, and dealing with props takes concentration and repetition to get just right, but it’s hard not to dissolve into laughter when rehearsing a comedy.

“It’s been an absolute treat to work with the Young Artists - they are incredible talents and they are also really fun (and funny) people!,’ commented stage director Kelly Van Oosbree.  "As we work on the farce of Gallantry - I can't help but think of some of my favorite farces: Noises Off and Soapdish (which I immediately thought of the first time I read Gallantry).  Sideshow!- Gallantry in particular-  is an experience from top to bottom.  I can't wait to have an audience!"

Sideshow!, for those who are unfamiliar, was inaugurated last fall in the newly christened Studio Loft performance and event space high up in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.  With a newly condensed season in the first half of the calendar year, Opera Colorado felt the need to present something musical in the fall, and felt the Studio Loft was the perfect location to present an intimate evening, combining a short, staged one-act opera, along with some cabaret songs.  The venue comes complete with a bar, so guests can enjoy a cocktail or two and snacks throughout the performances.  Seating is arranged at cabaret tables, and also in rows on levels. It’s the perfect before-or-after dinner show, and ideal dose of a little music for those who may be new to opera, for whom the prospect of a three-hour grand opera in a foreign language may be a bit daunting.  The selections for Sideshow! are all in English.

Gallantry by Douglas Moore, is a hilarious spoof of live soap operas from the early days of television, complete with live musical advertisements from "our sponsors": Lochinvar Soap and Billy Boy Wax!  As Dr. Gregg and Nurse Lola prepare to perform an operation, Dr. Gregg reveals his lust for Nurse Lola.  When the patient turns out to be Nurse Lola’s fiancé, the comedy begins.  It is a fond look back at the now almost-extinct television soap opera.  With actual soap.

The program is rounded out by a selection of familiar Cole Porter songs, and a set by a modern master of cabaret songs, William Bolcom.  With only three main-stage grand operas each season, the range of music Opera Colorado is able to present is somewhat limited.  The music for Sideshow!, selected from the vast realm of available vocal material, provides an opportunity to present familiar and traditional offerings alongside newer works, all of which are more appropriate for a more intimate setting than the grand stage of the Ellie. The Studio Loft is a perfect fit.  The talented cast includes soprano Morgan Harmison, mezzo-soprano Cassidy Smith, tenor Joshua Bouillon, and baritones Alex DeSocio and Jared Guest. 

Nurse Lola herself—AKA Morgan Harmison adds, "It’s been wonderful working with such a brilliant director as Kelly, who has been guiding us on making a melodrama like Gallantry comedic.  The second act consists of pieces in the form of a cabaret.  We are able to have a great time being ourselves and enjoy classics by William Bolcom and Cole Porter. I love performing Sideshow!, but at the same time I wish I could be in the audience to watch it. It’s so much fun!"

Now that staging is nearing completion, in the coming few days the show will start to look like a show.  Lights will be hung, focused and cued, costumes will appear, and tables, chairs and risers will be setup in the Studio Loft to await their occupants.   All that is missing, now, is you.  Join us, won’t you? 

Cocktails.  Did we mention there will be cocktails?

Tables for up to four guests are available for $45 per seat, and riser seat tickets are $40 by calling the Opera Colorado Ticket Services at 303.468.2030 or ordering online at

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

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