BWW Review: Café Nordo's THE CHAMPAGNE WIDOW is a Bubbly Good Time

BWW Review: Café Nordo's THE CHAMPAGNE WIDOW is a Bubbly Good Time
Opal Peachey (center) and the cast of
The Champagne Widow at Café Nordo.
Photo credit: Bruce Clayton Tom

Café Nordo has come to be known in town for their sumptuous meals and fun, frothy and fascinating shows but this time they've outdone themselves with "The Champagne Widow". With a book by Opal Peachey and Music by Annastasia Workman and Lyrics by Peachey, Workman as well as director Billie Wildrick, this wholly new and original work goes beyond their usual good time and adds heartbreak and even a bit of an education, not only about the creation of Champagnes but the unsung women responsible for many of the great achievements in Champagne.

Crafted by Peachey over three years as she gathered info touring the wineries of Champagne, France, the story focuses on four widows, Barbe Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, Louise Pommery, Mathilde Laurent-Perrier, and Lily Bollinger (Carol Louise Thompson, Melanie Hampton, Kate Kraay, and Faith Howes), the women responsible for making Champagne the luxury brand it is today. We follow through their lives, loves, and loss and how each of these distinctive businesswomen created their own brands of Champagne in times when women running businesses or even owning property without a man was impossible. As the show says, "Men did not write women's history and women did not write history" and so these stories were almost lost in life and in the show. But in the show, a cave underneath the province of Champagne holding some of the most famous bottles in history is discovered by a soldier in World War II. Juliet (Alex Sturtevant) wanders in to seek shelter and discovers the extensive wine cellar as well as The Champagne Widow (Opal Peachey), a spirit who explains that these amazing women have been all but forgotten and it's up to her to pop the corks, release their stories and take them out into the world with her.

The show from Peachey, Workman and Wildrick is a vibrant piece filled with love. Not only the loves of the widows but the obvious love from the creators for the subject. The stories are beautifully weaved into a fantastical dreamlike tapestry, each getting their proper due and each containing all new songs from Workman that are beautiful and haunting. And Wildrick has whipped up the staging into a bubbly party giving the audience a raucous good time. And of course, the food. No Nordo show would be complete without the incredibly innovative and delicious dishes from Erin Brindley. That caramelized onion and roasted garlic bisque in a bread bowl was to die for. And of course, pairing the courses with either a flight of champagnes from each of the widows or a flight of wines all from women helmed wine labels of today made for the perfect touch.

BWW Review: Café Nordo's THE CHAMPAGNE WIDOW is a Bubbly Good Time
Alex Sturtevant and Opal Peachey in
The Champagne Widow at Café Nordo.
Photo credit: Bruce Clayton Tom

And the ensemble is equally delectable. Peachey is the Grande Dame of vibrant characterizations and her spirit of the Champagne Widow is no exception. She imbues her with a spectral beauty, never dangerous but oh so mysterious. And her many other characters throughout the evening were a delight. Sturtevant makes for a lovely through line for the evening both as spectator of the story as well as an integral character. Thompson brought a tragic beauty to her widow with a soul shattering lament. Hampton is simply a force of joy and fantastically brings out the bubbly nature of the evening. Kraay's Mathilde was a statuesque woman of elegance lending an air of import. And Howes' Bollinger was the epitome of a strong, independent woman who can certainly take care of herself. And I must mention Bo Mellinger and Ricky Spaulding who came in as the husbands, lovers and foils of the widows brilliantly as well as rounding out the vocal sound of Workman's outstanding songs.

With an all-female team leading the charge and telling the stories of these amazing women who succeeded in the face of and in spite of the men who would hold them back, the show is a celebration of everything that is female. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Café Nordo's "The Champagne Widow" a cork popped YAY+. I've seen and enjoyed many a show at Café Nordo but this one ranks up there as one of their absolute best! Go see it!!!

"The Champagne Widow" performs at Café Nordo through July 7th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.cafenordo.com.



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From This Author Jay Irwin

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