BWW Reviews: dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's THE FAIRY QUEEN is Whimsical and Mirthful
In New York City, summer and Shakespeare go hand in hand. For their 2014 Season the dell'Arte Opera Ensemble is producing "A Summer of Shakespeare," and they kicked off this season with a fully staged production of Henry Purcell's THE FAIRY QUEEN. While giving the show a modern twist, dell'Arte Opera Ensemble followed traditional convention and has set the piece into an abridged version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. The end product is a light-hearted yet ambitious production that enchants.
The creative thrust for this production largely comes from Christopher Caines. It is his adaptation of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM that serves as the frame for THE FAIRY QUEEN. He has cleverly, and rather brilliantly, interpolated Oscar Wilde into the show. He directed the mirthful piece, and his cast keeps us smiling at all times. They even break the fourth wall with dexterity, reminding the audience from time to time that as observers we are still an important part of the production. He also choreographed the piece, using the social dances of the late 1600s and some interpretative ballet scenarios.
What makes the piece really click is the expertly played and sung music. Music Director Jeffrey Grossman captivates the audience with the baroque nature of Henry Purcell's compositions. With gusto we are captivated by the intricate layering of chords through deliciously staccato sections of the music. The performances of the arias and ensemble pieces are alluring. Moreover, Henry Purcell's copious use of countertenor and Brennan Hall, Raymond Storms and Peter Thoresen's singing of these parts is spellbinding.
As a full ensemble, the entire acting and signing casts really deliver strong and interesting performance. In a smart choice, the signing cast is made up of the fairies attending to Oberon and Titania and the acting cast handles the Shakespearean parts, allowing each cast to be separate from one another, but also to work together to produce a seamless product that comes across kind of like "A Midsummer Night's Dream: The Musical," if you will.
Opening the show and more-or-less guiding it from scene to scene is Drew Paramore as Puck. His infectious energy grabs the attention of the audience in his opening monologue, as he asks us to turn off our phones in iambic pentameter. He singlehandedly sets the tone and mood for the show, reeling us in with his charismatic line delivery, bright smile, and cartoonish mannerisms. Other standouts from the large company include Amanda Goble's youthful and incredulous Hermia, Andy Berry's poetic hipster, John Callison's striking baritone instrument as Cobweb, Nathan Létourneau's gorgeous tenor voice as Moth, Brennan Hall's Mustardseed, and Tamra Paselk's gorgeous soprano instrument.
Add some whimsy to your summer and escape the Hell's Kitchen/Theater District crowds by taking a trip down to the East Village to see dell'Arte Opera Ensemble perform Henry Purcell's THE FAIRY QUEEN within the context of William Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. The remaining performances are August 10 at 2:00 p.m., August 16 at 8:00 p.m., August 18 at 7:30 p.m., and August 23 at 8:00 p.m. All performances are held in the East 13th Street Theatre at 136 East 13th Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenues. The entrance to the theater is through the Everyman Café. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.dellarteopera.org.
All photos by Brian E. Long. Courtesy of dell'Arte Opera Ensemble.
Cast of dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's THE FAIRY QUEEN. Photo by Brian E. Long.
Imani Jade Powers as Titania & Jason Duverneau as Oberon. Photo by Brian E. Long.
Leslie Tay in THE FAIRY QUEEN. Photo by Brian E. Long.
Tamra Paselk in THE FAIRY QUEEN. Photo by Brian E. Long.
Drew Paramore as Puck. Photo by Brian E. Long.
Aynsley Inglis & Luke Tucker as Fairy Dancers. Photo by Brian E. Long.