By Lauren Katz
Last Sunday, music enthusiasts from around campus packed into Brandi Recital Hall for the Kenyon College Opera and Music Theater Workshops An Afternoon at the Theater. After spending a semester learning material from various opera and musical theater repertoires, the students involved in the workshop shared their hard work with a nearly full house.
Directed by Adjunct Instructor of Voice Jennifer Marcellana, the performance was divided into two sections: opera in the first act and musical theater in the second. The acts were split up into musical scenes from the various productions, and before each number, the three emcees Nick Foster 13, Madison Kerr 14 and Samantha Sheahan 13 provided background information about the pieces. Marcellana successfully chose a variety of songs that showed off the musical talents and ranges of the students performing them.
Marcellana, however, did not stop there. Staging and choreography added to the performance and made the students numbers even more fun to watch.
Marcellanas choice to include the emcees in the production was particularly helpful in the opera section. For example, the second number, entitled Che fiero momento from Orfeo ed Euridice, portrayed a woman (Rachel Cunningham 14) looking confused and singing to the audience. While her voice was beautiful and she hit the notes perfectly, the story would have been lost to the audience had it not been for the introduction. The emcees explained the story of Orpheus, and how the song took place when Cunninghams character, Eurydice, realized that her husband had just died in an attempt to save her from the underworld.
The stage was, for the most part, empty, which helped the audience focus on the performers voices. A few props, however, heightened the drama of the pieces. For example, The Ballad of Floyd Collins, from Floyd Collins, featured three women singing about the death of the title character. They stood around a chair with a lit lantern on top, which represented Floyd Collins. The props here enhanced the number, and when the women turned out the light at the end, the tragedy of the moment was palpable.
Marcellanas staging was also well done and often added humor to the scenes. For example, Ah, taci ingiusto core from Don Giovanni portrayed Don Giovanni (Foster) attempting to woo a maid. In order to get her attention, however, he first had to find a way to distract Donna Elvira (Ellen Kaufman 13), which is where his servant, Leoporello (Nathan Huey 13) came in. The three performers were extremely talented, but because the number was in a different language, the humor could have been lost among the audience members. However, the Cyrano de Bergerac-themed staging, involving Huey getting down on his knees and attempting to act out Fosters words in order to woo Kaufman, was hysterical.
The performance of Tear Jerk from I Love You, Youre Perfect, Now Change by Foster and Ally Schmaling 14 was another great example of good staging. The scene portrayed a couple on their first date, and how Fosters biggest mistake was allowing the woman to pick the movie. The number alone is amusing, but the staging increased the hilarity. Fosters physical acting abilities combined with his and Schmalings vocal skills made the number one of the strongest in the show.
The staging also added depth to some of the scenes. Some Things are Meant to Be from Little Women featured Beth (Sheahan) and Jo (Gina Rickert 14) singing about Beths impending death.
All of the performers were talented and showcased their strengths in their musical numbers; however, a few in particular stood out. Schmalings performance of Pur ti miro, pur ti godo was gorgeous. Her stage presence was spot-on, and her voice rang out throughout the recital hall. Her physical acting abilities shone through her performance in All That Jazz. Conor Dugan 15 showcased fantastic vocal skills through Take Me As I Am from Jekyll and Hyde. He successfully conveyed emotion through his voice, and as a result, the audience believed his deep love for the character played by Hannah Foerschler 15. Finally, Sheahans stage presence was always a joy to watch. Her character in All That Jazz was fun and lively, and contrasted with the equally strong character she created in Some Things Are Meant To Be.
An Afternoon at the Theater was a delight, and the hard work of these students obviously paid off.
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