“A Mother for Choco,” “The Nightingale,” and two short operas


by Wendy Gennaula | 8/4/09 • This year’s contribution from Gustavus Adolphus is another piece of quality theater for kids. Keiko Kasza’s A Mother for Choco (and other mother stories) is a darling show for the little ones. The preschoolers in the audience were enchanted by the experience. Strong singing and colorful puppets enhance Amy Seham’s lovely adaptation of Kasza’s children’s book. Thoroughly engaging and only 45 minutes long, this would be a great first theater experience. It plays three more times this week-Tuesday and Friday at 5:30 and a Saturday matinee at 2:30. You can introduce a young one to theater and have them home by bedtime.

The Nightingale, written and directed by Judy Cooper Lyle and based on the tale by Hans Christian Anderson, offers some joyous singing, particularly Mari Harris as the sexy nightingale. Andrew Brown-Thomas is very funny as the overwhelmed Prime Minister to the King. The ensemble (Samantha Miller, David Lee, and Penny Masuku) tells much of the story through dance. It is beautiful to watch them dance. However, the show is bogged down by slow transitions and too much “monologue-ing”. And much of the production was difficult to hear. It isn’t all the artists’ fault-I have seen 3 shows in the Proscenium and all three have had sound difficulties. But as Mama Rose and fellow blogger Matthew Everett like to say, “Sing out Louise!”

good to momma is the blog of wendy gennaula, one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet.

Next we grabbed our car and zipped over to the Playwrights’ Center for Two Short Operas: Mr. Berman’s Bath Size Bar and There’s a Mastodon in My Back Yard presented by the Dead Composers Society. (Although the composer of both pieces, Stephen Houtz, is certainly not dead.) I’m glad we didn’t stop for lunch first because the show sold out quickly. There are three shows remaining; I would strongly urge you to reserve your tickets.

The first short opera, Mr. Berman’s Bath-Size Bar, is a laugh riot. As Tommy says, “The plot is absolutely ridiculous. I loved it.” The second opera, There’s a Mastodon in My Back Yard is equally absurd. In between the two operas we were treated to an entr’acte by local singer/actress Jennifer Eckes. She sang the cabaret song “I Want Them Bald”.

Musically, all five performers fill the tiny theater with beautiful sounds. But their willingness to embrace the silliness of the moment makes the performance wonderful. The skillful music direction and accompaniment of Andrew Fleser allows the performers the foundation and the space to really inhabit their characters.

Wendy Gennaula is a singer and actress in the Twin Cities. She is the mother of two extraordinary Fringelings.

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