POSTED ON JUNE 2, 2010:
Bringing the House Down
LOOK plans month full of performances, entertainment
Dreams Come True. Since arriving at the production company in 2002, artistic director, Eric Gibson, has pushed to get The Boy Friend to the Tulsa audience, and the time is fi nally here. The show plays throughout the month of June
KENNETH M. RUGGIANO
Next week, Light Opera Oklahoma launches a season of love, with three shows designed to appeal to audiences' romantic sensibilities.
The "summer of love" opens June 8 with The Boy Friend, Sandy Wilson's 1954 musical, most notably credited with launching the career of Julie Andrews.
The Boy Friend, starring Patrick Howle and Joanie Brittingham, is a spoof on 1920s musicals. Set in the French Riviera, it tells the story of Polly Browne, who invents a boyfriend because she feels she is the only one in her "school for young ladies" who is unloved.
Before long, though, her faux romance turns into a real one.
Eric Gibson, artistic director for LOOK, said the company's production of The Boy Friend is long overdue. When he first arrived at LOOK in 2002, he put it on the bill for the following season.
"We've delayed it every year since then, up until now," Gibson said. "Every year, The Boy Friend is at the top of my list, but we can't do it."
Gibson said the enormity of the show includes three acts, three sets and three sets of costumes.
"It's not about being able to do the show; it's about the physical production elements," Gibson said
But last year, LOOK carved out a comfortable niche for itself in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's smallest theater, the Norman, 110 E. Second St. Performing The Gondoliers, LOOK's ensemble, by scaling down the set and utilizing the entire theater, put on a big show in a small space.
That's what they'll do with The Boy Friend. While the set has been significantly pared down, the rest of the show is true to scale, Gibson said, "For a show that isn't as well known, it's just about the most charming piece."
The Boy Friend runs June 8-9, 15-16, 20, 27 and 29-30, and tickets are $25-$29.
Next Friday, June 11, LOOK opens Patience -- but it's not the opera Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert intended for you to see.
"Patience is just a show that has kind of fallen out of popularity and, really, for good reason," Gibson said. "It's a spoof on aestheticism and poetry, and that does not ring true today at all."
So, Gibson began to look for a way to connect it to more modern audiences. Rather than have his main character parody Oscar Wilde, LOOK's Reginald Bunthorne is a reincarnation of Austin Powers.
The company's Archibald Grosvenor is a version of Bob Dylan -- before Dylan went electric, Gibson said. The setting of the opera is 1967, the summer of love, and it's been made over with a '60s and '70s aesthetic.
"It's going to be so much fun for young people," Gibson said. "And it'll be fun for older people, too, because they remember that era. They lived through it."
Rather than soldiers, the Dragoons in LOOK's Patience are ROTC guys who, in their off time, play rugby.
"There's always a big conflict in Gilbert and Sullivan shows, so when the big event happens, we have a drug party," Gibson said. "The reaction is that everybody gets high; then, the theater gets busted. At the end of the show, everyone gets into a peace bus and goes to Woodstock.
"This is not your grandmother's Gilbert and Sullivan," he added.
The show also features smoking and partial nudity.
"Parts of it are out of control," he said. "It's going to be one of the weirdest things we've done."
But, Gibson also believes it will be successful and a lot of fun for LOOK's audiences. The company is discounting tickets bought online at lightoperaok.org, selling them for only $19.67. The deal isn't available at the PAC's ticket window.
The opera stars Jenna Harris, Erick Castille and Ron Loyd and runs June 10-13, 18-19, 26 and July 2 in the PAC's John H. Williams Theatre.
LOOK's last show of the season, Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, opens June 24 and stars Ron Loyd and Christina Hager.
While the company's opening shows aren't well known, Kiss Me, Kate certainly is. The show is a play within a play, in which an egotistical director and his movie star ex-wife are putting on a production of William Shakepeare's Taming of the Shrew. The romance that happens backstage is even better than what happens onstage.
Kiss Me, Kate plays in the PAC's Williams Theatre June 23-26 and July 1 and 3.
To kick the whole season off, LOOK is hosting a Love-In on the Lawn June 4 at the Lorton Performance Center at the University of Tulsa from 5 to 6pm. Families are invited to picnic on the lawn and experience a (G-rated) preview of Patience.
Guests will have the chance to enter a drawing to win two tickets to Patience and dinner for two provided by Keo restaurant and can also purchase tickets to any of LOOK's shows.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit LOOK's website.
A few months ago, I visited the Coffee House on Cherry Street for Tulsa Opera's first Opera Underground event, and I was more than impressed.
The company brings its studio artists, young singers sort of apprenticing with TO, to unexpected locales, where they sing selections from the operatic and 20th Century cabaret repertoires.
It's a way of introducing people to opera in a very casual, unintimidating environment. And it's happening again Saturday, June 5, at LXi, 5982 S. Yale Ave.
At this event, audiences will be treated to a preview of LOOK's season repertoire, as well as popular opera arias by Mark Armstrong, principal pianist and vocal coach for TO.
TO will give away two tickets to La Traviata, the company's 2010-2011 season opener, and a $50 gift certificate to LXi.
The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6pm. More information is available at tulsaopera.wordpress.com.
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