Downhome opera fires up a ‘Barbecu’
The cast of "Das Barbecu"
Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, Morton College, 3801 S. Central Ave., Cicero
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 18-Feb. 2
$18, $16 for seniors; freshly barbecued food will be sold at intermission and after the show.
(708) 656-1800; www.jpactheatre.com
Updated: February 19, 2013 11:52AM
Picture Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” transplanted to Texas.
Imagine five actors playing all 30 roles from a singing cowboy named Seigfried to a trio of triplets.
Shows don’t get much sillier than “Das Barbecu.”
Micheal Kott directs the regional premiere of the musical by Jim Luigs (book and lyrics) and Scott Warrender (music) for Jedlicka Performing Arts Center (JPAC).
“I discovered this show in 1995 or 1996 and I’ve been itching to do it ever since,” said Kott, who has directed seven shows on JPAC’s mainstage. The main attraction was the music. “I listened to the album and fell in love with it. I grew up in Oklahoma so I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for country ballads,” he explained. The Southern humor was another selling point.
The show is a send-up of the source opera’s love story between Siegfried and his love Brunhilde. “In the opera, Brunhilde sings an aria about how she was cast under a spell and flung on a rock ringed with fire for 20 years,” Kott related. “That aria seems to be about 45 minutes long. In ‘Das Barbecu’ she says, ‘I was asleep on a rock ringed with fire for 20 years. Don’t ask!’”
Strictly by coincidence, the cast consists of five recent graduates of prestigious universities: Emily Goldberg (Boston Conservatory), Dylan McGill (Boston Conservatory), Drew Longo (New York University), Kristin Lutzeier (Roosevelt University) and Morgan Briggs (Illinois State University). “They’re playing characters in their 20s, all the way up to characters in their 70s,” Kott reported.
Actor Drew Longo has to be a quick change artist. Kott mentioned that in one scene, Longo says two lines, walks offstage and immediately returns as another character.
Longo, a 2009 NYU graduate who majored in theater, plays Wotan, “which is basically the German mythological equivalent of Odin,” he said. “He sets the whole story in motion.” That plot line involves Wotan’s attempt to retrieve a lost magic ring.
That’s Longo’s major part but he also has a couple of intriguing minor roles.
“I play another character named Gunther Gibich,” the actor said. “He is a ranch hand. He finagles his way to get married to Brunhilde. He’s kind of an old-fashioned good old boy. Almost a character out of ‘Dukes of Hazzard.’”
Longo also plays Hagen. “He is the narcoleptic, half-dwarf son of Wotan’s archenemy,” Longo said.
Oak Park resident Emily Goldberg, who plays Brunhilde, graduated from the Boston Conservatory last May with a degree in musical theater. She auditioned for “Das Barbecu” because, “It seemed absolutely hilarious and like a really awesome challenge.”
Goldberg said that Brunhilde “has a lot of heart. I think she is one of the most grounded characters in the show. She fights for everything she believes in. She’s kind of hard on the outside but soft on the inside.”
The actor lauded the “really beautiful” music in the show. She also enjoys the fact that her main role is both dramatic and comedic.
Goldberg’s minor parts include one of the triplets and a river maiden.
Actor Longo thinks audiences will enjoy the humor of this piece. “It acknowledges the fact that sometimes operas are really hard to understand and really convoluted and complex,” he said.
Goldberg added, “The show really involves the audience. There are a lot of moments where we address the audience directly.”
“It will be funny if you don’t know the opera,” director Kott declared. “If you know the opera, it will be a little funnier because you might get a few of the inside jokes but that is not a requisite at all.”