Folks Operetta Presents THE FLOWER OF HAWAII

By: May. 22, 2019

Folks Operetta Presents THE FLOWER OF HAWAII

Folks Operetta continues its Reclaimed Voices Series with Paul Ábrahám's exotic jazz operetta, The Flower of Hawaii featuring soprano and former Ms. Illinois Marisa Bucheit (2014) as Princess Laya/Suzanne. The Folks Operetta invites audiences to escape to paradise for this unique celebration of European operetta, American jazz and Hawaiian guitar at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave. from June 29 - July 14. Opening night is Saturday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. Performances will take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Conducted by Anthony Barrese and directed by Amy Hutchison, The Flower of Hawaii will remind audiences of the Golden Era of Hollywood musicals. Tickets range from $30 - $40. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit

Inspired by the story of Princess Ka'julani, The Flower of Hawaii spoofs American colonialism, but never takes on that subject too deeply; this is meant to be escapist entertainment with music celebrating the fox trot, waltzes and marches. The libretto features multiple love stories including Laya, a Hawaiian princess, who must choose between the American naval officer she loves and the Hawaiian prince to who she was betrothed as a child. Meanwhile, no less than three other couples must find their way through various romantic complications before all of them arrive at "Happily Ever After."

Hungarian composer Paul Abrahám (1992 - 1960) combined operetta with jazz,and the result was a string of hugely popular shows: Vicktoria and her Hussar (1930), Flower of Hawaii (1931) and Ball at the Savoy (1932.) Abrahám's unique blend of European waltzes and American jazz idioms changed the course of operetta. His rise to fame and fortune was swift. Between 1929 and 1932, in addition to three of the most successful operettas of the time, he composed numerous film scores and popular songs. Abrahám's music was heavily influenced by touring African-American jazz bands that had taken 1920s Berlin and the rest of Europe by storm. As a Jewish composer with a passion for jazz, he embodied everything the Nazis hated. When they came to power in Germany in 1933, he had to flee the country overnight. For the next five years, he continued to work in Vienna and Budapest, composting three more operettas. In 1938, with the German annexation of Austria, the rise of fascism in Hungary, and threat of war, he was compelled to leave for America. Like many other exiles, he had trouble finding meaningful work in the United States. To make matters worse, he also faced serious mental health problems. Abrahám would spend 10 years in the Creedmor Mental Hospital in Queens, New York. After the war, he and his wife returned to Germany, where he lived until his death in 1960.
The cast of The Flower of Hawaii includes: Rodell Rosell (Prince Lilo-Taro); Marisa Buchheit (Princess Laya/Suzanne); Nick Pulikowski (Captiain Stone); Teaira Burge (Bessie); William Roberts (Buffy); Trent Oldham (Jimmy Fox); Angela Yu (Raka); Robert Morrissey (Governor); Benjamin Burney (Kaluna/Bobby Flipps); Benjamin Kawsky (Sunny Hill); Jordan Beyeler (dancer); Ivory Leonard (dancer); Ysaye McKeever (dancer); Athena Kopulos (feature dancer/ensemble); Sarah Ruth Mikulski (Bessie understudy/ensemble); Clara Imon Pedtke (ensemble); Elena Avila (ensemble); Adrianne Blanks (ensemble); Cydney Washington (ensemble); Camryn MacLean (apprentice/ensemble); Anwar Mohammed (apprentice/ensemble) and Julian Lee-Zachies (apprentice/ensemble).

The crew of The Flower of Hawaii includes: Anthony Barrese, conductor; Amy Hutchison, stage director/editor; August Tye, principal choreographer; Ressie Davis, choreographer; Eleanor Kahn, set designer; Patti Roeder, costume designer; Eric Watkins, lighting designer; Peter Schwob, technical director, Kayla Kroot, props; Joseph Frantzen, assistant manager/editor; Antoliy Tochinskiy, rehearsal pianist and Hersh Glagov, translator/lyricist/editor.

ABOUT GERALD FRANTZEN, Producer/Lyricist/Editor

Gerald Frantzen is the artistic director of Folks Operetta. He has sung with the Lyric Opera of Chicago chorus for nine years, where he made his solo debut in the opera Eugene Onegin (2008). His opera roles include Giove (Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria- NPR broadcast), both Acis and Damon (Acis and Galatea), 2nd Nazarene (Salome) with the Glimmerglass Opera; Ernesto (Don Pasquale) with Natchez Opera; Prunier (La Rondine) with Sarasota Opera; Der Kellner (Arabella) with Santa Fe Opera and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Ridge Light Opera.

Frantzen has been a frequent soloist with Handel Week where he has performed two Messiahs and played a leading role in the Chicago premiere of G. F. Handel's Rodelinda and recently played Acis in Acis and Galatea. He was also the tenor soloist in Bach's Magnificat and The Mozart Requiem.

Since 2006 he has translated over 18 different operettas with Folks Operetta dramaturge Hersh Glagov; presenting 15 American premieres. His operetta credits Arizona Lady (2010 U.S. Premiere); The Circus Princess (U.S. premiere); Ball at the Savoy (2014 American premiere); The Girl in the Train (American premiere); Springtime (American premiere); (Peter and Paul in the Land of Nod- American premiere); Thespis (World premiere); Gypsy Love, Yeomen of the Guard; Duchess of Chicago; Pirates of Penzance; The Student Prince; The Merry Widow, The Gondoliers; Song of Norway; as well as Madame Pompadour. In 2013 Frantzen wrote the critically-acclaimed concert "Operetta in Exile" with Glagov.

His international musical theater credits include Jekyll & Hyde in Bremen, Germany; the role of Piangi (The Phantom of the Opera - Hal Prince, director) in Hamburg, Germany and The Russian (Chess) in Bergen, Norway. Regional credits include Dorsey and the Young Confederate Soldier (Parade-which won 8 Jeff Citations), Sir Harry (Once Upon a Mattress), Tony (West Side Story), Baron (Grand Hotel) and Charlie (Brigadoon). He can also be heard with "The Three Waiters," which has won the award for Best Corporate Event over six times.

Film credits include "Return of the Night Porter" as an editor, which won the Grand Prix at the Karlovy Film Festival in Europe. Recordings include John Frantzen Compositions and a musical theater collection called Another Autumn (recorded with Alison Kelly; The Rose of Stambul by Leo Fall on the Naxos Recording Label. Frantzen has also sung with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and The Grant Park chorus.

ABOUT ANTHONY BARRESE, Conductor/Folks Operetta Music Director

Anthony Barrese is the recipient of the 2007 Georg Solti Foundation U.S. award for young conductors. His original works have won numerous awards, and he is regularly engaged by opera companies in North America and Italy. He has led several productions with Sarasota Opera (Lakmé, Le nozze di Figaro, Hansel and Gretel), and with Opera Southwest (Le nozze di Figaro, Die Fledermaus, La cenerentola) where he is Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. Barrese was the Assistant Conductor of the Dallas Opera in 2006-2007 and returned there as Guest Conductor for a production of Tosca in 2008, and in 2015 for La Wally. In 2008 Barrese conducted a new production of Turandot in Ascoli Piceno's historic Teatro Ventidio Basso, with a cast that included Nicola Martinucci as Calaf. He also made his French debut conducting Turandot at the Opéra de Massy. In recent seasons Barrese made debuts with Florida Grand Opera (Les pêcheurs de perles) Opera Theatre of St. Louis (The Kiss), Opera North (L'elisir d'amore), and Boston Lyric Opera (Don Giovanni)

Barrese is the recipient of numerous composition awards including a N.E.C. Contemporary Ensemble Composition Competition Award for his Madrigale a 3 voci femminili, and two B.M.I. Student Composers Awards. As a musicologist, he rediscovered, prepared, and edited the critical edition of Franco Faccio's opera Amleto, in conjunction with Casa Ricordi.

He made his operatic conducting debut in Milan with La Bohème and recorded Roberto Andreoni's quattro luci sul lago with "I Solisti della Scala" (a chamber group made up of the first chair musicians of the La Scala Philharmonic) for broadcast on Italian National Radio (RAI 3). As Artistic Director of Opera Southwest he has performed Rossini's Otello with the American staged premiere of the finale lieto, and in 2014 he led the new World Premiere of Amleto, not heard anywhere since 1871. In the 2015-16 season Barrese led a "Return of Rossini" festival at OSW, as well as a production of Norma at Florida Grand Opera. As Music Director of Opera Delaware he conducted the west coast premiere of Amleto in 2016, and the company premiere of Rossini's Semiramide in 2017. Upcoming engagements include The Merry Widow with Opera Saratoga (2018), and Lohengrin with Opera Southwest.


Amy Hutchison has championed American opera throughout her career. She has served on the directing staffs of Lyric Opera of Chicago and Houston Grand Opera and on the faculties of The Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. Her fascinating, brilliantly mounted double bill; production of Donizetti's Il Pigmalione and Rita for Chicago Opera Theater wowed audiences and critics alike. As part of COT's Vanguard Initiative, she was honored to stage Grand Illusion by Composer-in-Residence Stacy Garrop and Jerre Dye.

She also helmed critically-acclaimed Chicago premiere productions of As One by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed and Missy Mazzoli's Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt for Chicago Fringe Opera. Hutchison frequently collaborates with South Shore Opera Company, where her work includes Joelle Lamarre's The Violet Hour, Steven M. Allen's The Poet, Jonathan Stinson's The March: A Civil Rights Opera Project, Samuel Coleridge- Taylor's Dream Lovers and African Romances, and William Grant Still's epic masterwork Troubled Island, named the number one classical music event of 2013 by the Chicago Sun-Times. Other Chicago area productions include Madame Pompadour for Folks Operetta, Music by the Lake's Brigadoon, DuPage Opera's Faust, and Our Town and Transformations for DePaul Opera Theatre. Her collaboration with Ricky Ian Gordon and Stacey Tappan, Once I Was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon, was staged at the Chicago Cultural Center and recorded on the Blue Griffin label.

Beyond Chicago, Hutchison's work includes productions of As One in San Antonio; Il Matrimonio Segreto in Boston; Carmen in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Columbus; Turandot in Orlando; Don Pasquale for Indianapolis Opera; La Traviata in Costa Mesa and Menotti';s Help! Help! The Globolinks! for Madison Opera. She served as revival director for William Bolcom's A View from the Bridge (Teatro dell;Opera di Roma, Washington National Opera and Portland Opera); the Maurice Sendak production of Hänsel und Gretel (Opernhaus Zürich, Canada, San Diego, Indianapolis and televised for PBS: Live from the Lincoln Center); and the international tour of Houston Grand Opera's Porgy and Bess (Milan's Teatro alla Scala, L'Opéra National de Paris, Teatro La Fenice, and more). She serves on the board of philanthropic organization She100, performs advisory roles with Folks Operetta and South Chicago Dance Theatre and formerly served on the board of About Face Theatre.


Folks Operetta is a 501(c)(3) non-profit theater company devoted to the nurturing of live operetta through articulate and Dynamic Productions. In the belief that the arts serve to illuminate the human condition, Folks Operetta is dedicated to the revival and development of operetta, a popular and accessible form of music and theater for general audiences. In particular, the Folks Operetta concentrates on producing both Viennese and American operettas from the early 20th century.

Folks Operetta begins its 2019-2020 season of the Reclaimed Voices Series with Paul Ábrahám's exotic jazz operetta, The Flower of Hawaii. Folks Operetta invites audiences to escape to paradise for this unique celebration of American jazz and Hawaiian guitar at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave. from June 29 - July 14. Opening night is Saturday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. Performances continue on a regular weekly schedule: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Featuring the conducting of Anthony Barrese and the directing of Amy Hutchison, The Flower of Hawaii will remind audiences of the Golden Era of Hollywood musicals. Tickets range from $30 - $40. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit


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