On Sunday afternoon, a select audience went on a musical and theatrical adventure from Venice to Naples to Florence. Kenyon’s Opera and Musical Theatre Workshop (affectionately dubbed “OpShop”) Nov. 3 performance, A Tour of Italy, featured many special voices and talents, all enrolled in the course, Opera and Musical Theater Workshop (MUSC 483), offered each semester at Kenyon.
The performance — which took place in Brandi Recital Hall and was organized by Adjunct Instructor of Voice Jennifer Marcellana — consisted of two acts, each intended to transport the viewer to a scene of Italy. While each individual talent was notable in their own right, perhaps the most memorable pieces were group songs, as they incorporated elaborate blocking and showcased the actors’ uniquely whimsical chemistry.
Sarah Dailey ’20, who previously stage managed for OpShop, participated in two of these group numbers: the opening of the second act, entitled “We Open in Venice,” from the musical Kiss Me, Kate and the grand, upbeat closing number featuring the whole company entitled “Sposalizio” from The Most Happy Fella.
While the haphazard nature of “We Open in Venice” seemed to complement the humor of the song by design, there was actually not much time to practice the choreography for the act, according to Dailey. Despite this drawback, the raw, vivacious energy of the cast carried the performance through to a genuinely uplifting effect on its viewers.
While Marcellana was the faculty member involved in organizing the production, the members of OpShop had many directorial opportunities. For students interested in both drama and music, OpShop is one of the few departmental programs that “really … brings together the theatrical and the musical aspects,” Dailey said. Student directors were assigned to numbers in the show, creatively managing the blocking of each number, as well as each number’s dramatic effect. “My job was to help [the cast] vary their movement and their actions in a specific way — in an intentional way that … helped them tell the story of the song,” Dailey said.
This storytelling is a hallmark of the way in which Marcellana designs her shows; the audience is not merely watching a group of students singing in Brandi, but also experiencing a scene with established characters and corresponding garb. Discussing her costume for the trouser role of Nicklausse in the duet “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour,” Dailey said, “Since technically … in a performance, I would have been dressed as a male, [Marcellana] thought it would be fun to … have us be a little in character,” she said. Dailey explained that this is a common theme for OpShop cabaret performances. “[The performances] have … a dash of character, or a dash of theatrical, even though it’s mostly a sung performance.”
The production had no set, or even elaborate choreography. The resources to make the performance into a full production were simply not available. Even so, while it is doubtful anyone was actually convinced they were located in Naples while sitting in the wooden halls of Brandi, Marcellana and her cast transported the audience there in spirit.