Posted on Jul 19, 2014
5 out of 5
A very strong performance of an effectively creative adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.
I am not an opera fan, but this presentation could convert me. First, it’s in English, it began with the spoken word, and the company gave out printed lyrics for those of us not used to listening to opera.
But the printed words weren’t needed to understand Nathan Granner. His voice was strong and clear, and his character was compelling. Gorgeous singing. That alone was worth the time.
Devon Barnes had a lovely voice when singing low and soft, but some of her higher sections had a piercing quality to me. Her physical reactions, particularly to the Uninvited Guest, were emotionally effective. Her acting came across as truthful, the emotions coming from within.
Bryan Colley’s libretto and Daniel Doss’s music were quite impressive. They captured the story succinctly, getting us in the spirit, enjoying the characters, and building to the climax. The entertainment at the ball provided emotional variety, and gave the individual dancers a moment in the spotlight, which they deserved. Michalis Koutsoupides accompanied with just the right volume, not drowning out the voices as too often happens in musical productions.
Tara Varney’s direction and Amy Hurrelbrink’s choreography created a powerful experience. The movement was natural, provided a variety of stage pictures that evoked emotion and added visual interest, and covered the audience well. The dancing enhanced the mood and the story, and it gave a fascinating visual behind Nathan’s powerful singing. Dancers Chelsea Anglemyer, Josh Atkins, Amy Hurrelbrink, Tyler Parsons, and Tiffany Powell blended beautifully as an ensemble, and also embodied unique personalities. They listened actively and carried out business that made the scenes realistic without pulling focus. The choreography allowed each of them moments to be featured. At one point their frantic, almost jerky, movements gave the impression of many more dancers than there were. This was an effective contrast to the fluidly slow movements, particularly when Coleman Crenshaw as the Uninvited Guest drew attention merely by his intense stage presence.
Bryan Colley designed a sparse setting that allowed Shane Rowse’s lighting to set the mood. One window lighted in red in one corner, a white-lighted clock in the diagonal corner, a bench with just enough props to give the dancers realistic business on one side and allow them ways to create pictures on different levels—that was perfect to set the tone and give space for the story to unfold. The patterned lighting changes were very effective, and the white light always pinpointed the main action. Tara Varney punched the ending with an evocative image.