#134. Chicago Folks Operetta presents THE CIRCUS PRINCESS. Feodora is wealthy, a widow and a princess. The Czar wants her to marry but she has a bad habit of snubbing potential candidates. Mr. X is famous, a circus performer, and a prince in disguise. The Grand Duke wants Mr. X to marry Feodora. The Duke wants to pay Feodora back for spurning him by fooling her into marrying the high wire act. Mr. X agrees to the scam because he was also ignored by Feodora. So, Mr. X woos Feodora pretending to be a prince but not revealing he actually is a prince. So, what happens when royals and circus folk mix it up? Add in jugglers, an aerialist, dancing girls, a 30-person cast and a 19-piece orchestra, the ambitious results is a three ring circus. THE CIRCUS PRINCESS is an audio and visual spectacle under the big top.
This is my second season of experiencing Chicago Folks Operetta (CFO). I’m always impressed at how beautiful their singing sounds at the Chopin Theatre. The Chopin, space typically used by House Theatre, doesn’t have a reputation for musical acoustics. So, it’s an unexpected delight to hear robust and clear melodies under their roof. The CFO runs its season in the summer. They effectively avoid competing with the Lyric Opera or Chicago Opera Theatre’s seasons. They also focus on operettas, which is like opera lite: less filling, tastes great. Operettas tend to be comedies and lighter faire than a full-blown opera.
So, having said all that... THE CIRCUS PRINCESS is a little much! It’s a bit of a circus! CFO goes grandiose and loses the simplicity of the story. The circus acts are fun but unnecessary. The clowns, in particular, are cute but clunky. The six dancing girls are brought onstage repeatedly. They lose some of their elegant allure in the sea of people. It’s like a bunch of clowns getting out of a miniature car. Their dancing movements become restricted and stilted. An amazing Katie Kasper (aerialist) is a showstopper but it’s not really her show to stop.
Stripped down, this is a love story, actually two love stories. The singing between the lovers (Chelsea Morris and Gerald Frantzen, Tyler Thompson and Alison Kelly) should be the showcase. It’s exquisite. It’s the heart and core of the overdone extravaganza. Conductor Anthony Barrese makes Kalman’s operetta both playful and romantic. The music is perfect for falling in love with or at the circus. This adaptation is heavy dialogue laden. And sometimes, Barrese’s orchestra overpowers the chatter but I didn’t mind. The music and the singing are the reasons to see THE CIRCUS PRINCESS.
Running Time: Three hours and ten minutes includes two intermissions.
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division
Music by Emmerich Kalman
Libretto by Julius Brammer and Alfred Grunwald
Libretto and lyrics translated by Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov
Edited by Gerald Frantzen, Hersh Glagov and Bill Walters
Directed by Bill Walters
Conducted by Anthony Barrese
June 22nd, 23rd, 28th at 7:30pm
June 17th, 30th and July 1st at 2pm
Buy Tickets at www.chicagofolksoperetta.org