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Review: Splendid FELLOW TRAVELERS at Des Moines Metro Opera

A Production That I Will Remember for Years to Come

By: Jul. 22, 2021
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Review: Splendid FELLOW TRAVELERS at Des Moines Metro Opera  Image
Christian Sanders as Timothy Laughlin
Photo by Duane Tinkey

Every once in a while, a show comes along that takes you completely by surprise. Sometimes it's a show that leaves you thinking about the topic of the show or performances you saw. Other times can be the pure beauty a show has both visually and audibly.

For me, the experiences that I remember the most are the ones that can combine both of these into one memorable evening. For me, this recently happened with Des Moines Metro Opera's one-night-only performance of FELLOW TRAVELERS at Hoyt Sherman Place.

FELLOW TRAVELERS, Music by Gregory Spears and Libretto by Greg Pierce, is based on Thomas Mallon's 2007 novel by the same name. The story takes place from 1953-1957 during what has become known as the Lavender Scare. It is about a young reporter named Timothy Laughlin, who, while reviewing notes for a story, is approached by a State Department Employee named Hawkins Fuller.

When Laughlin gets a job with Senator Charles Potter's office, he finds out that he got the job thanks to a recommendation by Fuller. So as a thank you, Laughlin purchases him a book as a gift. When Fuller isn't available, he leaves the book along with his address. Later that evening, Fuller goes to Laughlin's place, and they soon form a relationship with each other. The issue they face is should their relationship go public, they could both be fired from their jobs.

From the moment the show starts, I was drawn in by the gorgeous music coming from the orchestra under the direction of Carolyn Watson. As the scene and song changed, I found myself entranced by the splendid music. What made the productions even more magical was the seamless direction from Marcus Shields. You could see how much of a visual storyteller he is as a director. Whenever there was music, something was happening on stage. The movement always propelled the story forward, even during scene changes.

Review: Splendid FELLOW TRAVELERS at Des Moines Metro Opera  Image
Christian Sanders as Timothy Laughlin
Joseph Lattanzi as Hawkins Fuller
Photo by Duane Tinkey

Many times with operas, you think of big, grand, extravagant sets and costumes. The beauty of this production is that it doesn't do that. The set designed by Victoria Tzykun beautifully tells the story using a few small set pieces that can be rolled on and off stage.

This allows for the focus to be on the story happening on stage. By taking this minimalistic approach to the set, it allowed for an extraordinary moment at the close of the show that was stunning and beautiful. The moment said so much without saying a single word.

One of the most captivating parts of the night came in Christian Sander's performance as Timothy Laughlin. I was excited to see him take on another role as I thoroughly enjoyed his performance as Toby in this season's SWEENEY TODD. With this role, he left his heart on the stage, not only making this an amazing performance, but one I will not soon forget. Another charismatic performance came in Joseph Lattanzi's performance as Hawkins Fuller. When he came on stage, he had the charm that let us know why Timothy Laughlin fell for his character. He also brought a lot of heart to the role. As an audience, we felt the pain when he realized that he had to end things with Laughlin. The cast also featured terrific performances from Ryan Wolfe, Brandon Bell, Benjamin Taylor, Craig Jurica, Amanda Sheriff, Grace Kahl, Nathaniel Hill, Kellen Shrimper, and Claire Lopatka.

While Des Moines Metro Opera's production of FELLOW TRAVELERS may have only been a one-night performance, its impact will last a while longer. The music, direction, technical elements, and cast made for a truly memorable evening. While this show may be closed, you can still see several of the cast members in the Opera's three fantastic main stage productions, SWEENEY TODD, THE QUEEN OF SPADES, and PLATEE. With their 49th season coming to a close this weekend, tickets are very limited. For more information about Des Moines Metro Opera, visit Homepage - Des Moines Metro Opera.

Review: Splendid FELLOW TRAVELERS at Des Moines Metro Opera  Image
Cast of "Fellow Travelers"
Photo by Duane Tinkey

Review was written by DC Felton
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