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We almost missed the balloon landing, but the rest of the show was exciting enough to make up for it. For the second year in a row, the Lowell House Opera Group, once a strictly small-time organization, has produced a show which for size and talent equals anything the college has to offer. Perhaps it had its rough spots, but you can't score 100 percent all the time.
The musical comedy-opera by John Latouche and Jerome Moross recreates the adventures of Ulysses and Penelope and Menelaus and Helen in an early 20th-century American setting. The present production puts the story across with great gusto thanks to the work of a generally talented cast, greatly aided by director Stephen Aaron and musical director Howard Brown. What it lacks in polish, it almost always makes up for in vigor. Backed up by the sumptuous settings and lighting of Webster Lithgow and Jordan Jelks, the actors really go to town--especially in the ladies department.
Elizabeth Kalkhurst, as Penelope, has the most musically pleasant voice in the show, and keeps the early scenes going with her treatments of "My Love is On the Way," and "It's the Going Home Together," which she shares with Hugh Fortmiller as Ulysses. Despite a fine performance, however, her part lacks some of the color which adds zest to the other female leads.
In these, Lee Jeffries, Patricia Hess, and Clare Scott all turn out remarkably entertaining performances. All three have voices and personalities which carry well to the audience, and in most of the numbers audibility and character were decisive. Miss Jeffries, as the amorous and attractive Helen, was everything desirable, both as a singer and otherwise. Her top number was "Lazy Afternoon," to which Harold Scott's pantomime contributed considerably.
Miss Hess played the part of Mother Hare, the village prophet of Angel's Roost, Washington, with a fine balance of malice and fun, and was very effective in two social-message numbers, "Mother Hare's Prophecy," and the new song-and-dance number (never before produced), "The Big Brain." But if there is musical comedy talent of professional calibre in the Harvard community, Miss Scott has it. Her wry and seemingly effortless work in "The Judgement of Paris," and especially "By A Goona-Goona Lagoon," marked two of the show's high points. Also charming in small ways were Johanna Linch, as Mrs. Juniper, and Helen Raisz, as Miss Minerva Oliver. Diana Sterling contributed an energetic moment to the production through her lead in the "Circe" dance sequence.
On the whole, the gentlemen were less outstanding; they also had harder things to do. Fortmiller, as Ulysses, handled the show's largest part with a competence which was almost impressive--but not quite. Dean Gitter's Menelaus was amusingly smooth and sneaky, and because of superior singing talent came across to the audience somewhat better than Andre Gregory's Hector Charybdis. Nevertheless, the two hit it off well in the dance duet, "Scylla and Charibdis," and Gregory made his part well worth everyone's while in "Hector's Song," which he executued with great chic. Harold Scott made a remarkably good thing out of a small part with his pantomimes in the role of Paris.
The choruses were sometimes weak, but among the Heroes, the work of Noel Tyl and Monroe Dowling was outstanding.
What with impressive costuming and production and a great deal of enthusiasm backed up by good orchestra work, The Golden Apple is an evenings diversion well worth the time. It does not live up to the spectre of last year's show which has been haunting it, but this is largely the fault of the opera (or musical) itself, rather than its producers. It is fine entertainment now, and with conscientious theatre people handling it, it can only improve during the remainder of its run.
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