Broadway World Calls HAIR “Must-See Theatre”!

“The Age of Aquarius.” “Let the Sunshine In.” “Hair.” Just reading the titles of the songs brings to mind a tired stereotype of drugged-out hippies prancing around blathering about love and flowers. Is there really any way that kind of thing could still be relevant today?

Astonishingly, the answer is a resounding yes.

Fifty years after its premiere, Hair, the “American Tribal Rock Musical,” still bristles with raw power, as proved in GLOW Lyric Theatre‘s new must-see production. Director Jenna Tamisiea and music director Christian Elser put a talented cast through a physical and emotional journey that still feels revolutionary.

The journey begins even before curtain time, as actors – already in character – mill around the open theatre space, creating a welcoming atmosphere as they interact with audience members and each other. The set, designed by Henry Wilkinson, consists of some low platforms, covered in blankets and pillows, with a few swaths of draped fabric in places. And as the music begins, the actors converge and undergo a small ritual in which they take a drug and the lights and music swirl more and maybe the whole evening is just going to be one long drug trip for all of us and then the “Age of Aquarius” dawns and draws us into its spell.

Waseem Alzer stars as Berger, the free-spirited leader of the tribe. Alzer brings an electric energy to the role, showing us how the character’s charisma could bring these people together, while also hinting at the darker parts of Berger’s soul. He’s also got a winning voice and a nice comic knack.

Gavin Carnahan plays Claude, the most conflicted member of the tribe. Carnahan does a great job conveying a character who is both man and boy, torn between the life spirit he gains from being part of the tribe and the strong pull of his parents’ influence to conform. He leads a winningly energetic version of “I Got Life” as well as the show’s signature number, “Hair.”

Katerina McCrimmon also makes a strong impression as Sheila, the object of both Berger’s and Claude’s desire. Her opening song, “I Believe in Love,” as well as another solo number, “Easy to Be Hard,” are real standouts, and McCrimmon is a warm presence throughout the play.

The cast is large and uniformly excellent, with every member given moments to shine. Just a few of those include Ray Jones’ imposing presence as Hud, Paige Vassel’s earnest singing of “Frank Mills,” AJ Tinci leading the song “Air,” Jena Brooks’ fluid dance poses as well as her stern presence as Claude’s mother, and Mitchell Bradford’s endearing yet pained portrayal of Woof. Most impressive is the intense, extended second act section that makes up Claude’s hallucination. It’s a bravura piece of theatre, with music, sound, lights (by KEVIN FRAZIER), costumes (by Justin Hall), and acting all coming together with a devastating potency.

Director Tamisiea choreographs her ensemble through writhing, naturalistic movements that sometimes have performers nearly oozing over each other, yet never wavering in pitch or intensity as they sing. Cat Richmond, for instance, is at one point literally draped on her back over another player’s shoulders, yet still maintains a clear and gorgeous soprano. This cast and production will wow you with their stamina, their marvelous musicianship (including a crack live band) and their raw emotional power. It’s a show that brings to light some stunningly topical ideas and feelings that serve as a potent reminder that the past was not always a shining example of “the good old days.” GLOW Lyric Theatre prides itself on basing each of their summer festival seasons on a theme, with the intent to engage a discourse. This year’s theme is Question Authority, and to that end, Tamisiea has inserted into the show – primarily on signs and banners – certain words and slogans that come straight from today’s headlines while still being eerily perfect for the setting of the show.

One of the enduring images of the sixties that stuck in my memory is that of a young hippie slipping the stem of a flower into the barrel of a soldier’s rifle. That exact moment plays out here and instead of being comic or comforting, it’s an act of defiance fraught with danger. It’s a moment that made me realize that for all the goofy caricature time has burdened them with, many of the aims and means of the flower power movement were truly brave and truly revolutionary. These were young people trying to believe in the power of love, despite being confronted with daily evidence of the world’s harshness and inhumanity. And is that really such a bad thing?


BWW Previews: GLOW LYRIC SUMMER FESTIVAL SEASON at Fine Arts Center

 Jun. 29, 2017 

How does Jenna Tamisiea get three shows up and running with only a month of rehearsal?

“I put a bunch of eclectic, talented, crazy people together and am exploiting them,” she says with a laugh.

Tamisiea is the co-founder, with her husband, Christian Elser, of GLOW Lyric Theatre. Tamisiea directs the shows, with Elser serving as music director and conductor. This year marks their 9th Annual Summer Festival, and features Robert Ward‘s “eerie and powerful” operatic adaptation of Arthur Miller‘s The Crucible, the “witty and hilariously irreverent” political satire of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, and the rock musical hippie protest classic, Hair. The three shows run in repertory from July 13th-30th at The Greenville Fine Arts Center.

For each season, Tamisiea and Elser select and stage their shows based on a specific social or political theme. This year’s theme is Question Authority.

“When November came, we solidified our season,” says Elser. “We want to examine non-partisan issues from both sides.” Two of the primary ideas they plan to engage in their work are the cultural pitfalls of partisan politics and the dangerous nature of political witch hunts. “We want to explore the question of how do we find a way to bring us all together and then move forward.”

Tamisiea says they begin by going back to the text, casting aside any preconceptions while uncovering the roots of the piece. Then they let their own experiences and interpretations bring the work to new life.

“A show like Hair can easily become a costumed parody of itself,” Elser says, adding that the show is still “hauntingly relevant.” It’s so relevant, says Tamisiea, that “there’s nothing that needs to change.” So she’s giving her cast a chance to express themselves through this 1960’s-era protest musical.

“The cast are young, they’re of this generation and they have their own feelings about protest and rebellion,” Tamisiea says. “We want to give a voice to this generation.”

The season’s opening show is The Crucible, 1962’s Pulitzer Prize winner for music. Elser calls it grand opera fused with Copland-esque Americanism. It is, of course, based on Arthur Miller‘s Tony Award winning play about the dangers of political hysteria, with the Salem witch trials standing in for the communist-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee.

“Even straight theatre lovers would like this,” Tamisiea says. ‘It’s an American opera of an American story.”

Rounding out the season is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, a political farce that Elser says almost has the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit. “It’s totally raucous and insane,” he says. He and Tamisiea love the way it contrasts with their other two shows as it pokes fun at the pretentions of liberals. “It flips the others on their heads,” he says.

Tamisiea’s collaborative directorial style, coupled with her strong visual sense and Elser’s top-notch musicianship make GLOW Lyric productions always worth seeing. And whether you see all three shows in one weekend or spread out the joy over the course of the month, you owe yourself the experience. Trust my authority on this one.


REVIEW: Glow Lyric Theatre’s Electrifying ‘Hair” is Anything But Static after 50 Years

CAROLINA CURTAIN CALL

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

Fifty years after its Off-Broadway premiere, “HAIR” the ultimate counterculture musical is still poignant as ever. One might say Glow Lyric Theatre’s exhilarating revival at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville is fresh as a daisy on a hippie flower crown in the Haight-Ashbury.

And what more fitting show than “HAIR” to headline the bold theme of “Question Authority” in Glow’s 7thseason as South Carolina’s only professional opera company.

With an expanded summer festival in 2017, “HAIR” will be presented in repertory with the English-language opera “The Crucible” and the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta “The Gondoliers” through July 30.

Like other groundbreaking shows from the Vietnam War era (“Oh! Calcutta!” and “Godspell” for example), “HAIR” is extremely malleable. And like DNA, no two “HAIR”s are ever remotely the same.

Fortunately for Glow audiences, Artistic Director Jenna Tamisiea has crafted this “HAIR” experience with a thrilling and audacious slickness, and with an outstanding group of young artists who prove the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

As a collective group, this dynamic band of East Village hippies rage together with precision and, with such organic unity, that they evoke a rare symbiotic voice like a real commune itself. There isn’t a weak link or solo in this East Village tribe, whose members are appearing in one or two other Glow summer productions this month.

Kevin Ray Cohen is Hud in “HAIR.”

And Tamisiea, who also choreographs “HAIR,” masterfully constructs – from this non-linear and far-out material by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot – a musical journey of movement and emotion that is both polished and riveting.

Fresh on the heels of her acclaimed staging of “Spring Awakening” at The Warehouse Theatre in May,  Tamisiea is practically a veteran of avant-garde theatre, having just devised an original work this Spring in Asheville called “Pulse,” inspired by the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

Glow Co-founder and Executive Director Christian Elser is music director for “HAIR” and conducts this show’s 30-plus numbers at a brisk pace and rewards his audience with stellar vocal artistry and precision as the tribe executes one extraordinary composition after another: the monster acid-pop hit “Aquarius” (lead by the splendidly commanding Shanelle Woods, the accomplished mezzosoprano who also sings the pivotal role of Tituba in “The Crucible,” the bubble-gum clarity of “Good Morning Starshine,” and the joyful scat singing in “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In” as this ebullient ensemble files out triumphantly in the finale.

“HAIR,” tackles many, many themes from the environment (“Air”), racism(“Colored Spade”), drug experimentation (“Hashish”), and sexual freedom (“Sodomy”),to the Vietnam War (“Don’t Put It Down”), which is ceremoniously and brazenly displayed in the burning of their draft cards during the “Be-In/Hare Krishna” scene.

But the true moments of greatness come when authentic sincerity shines through this fine, diverse ensemble in acts that do “Question Authority” and  reference movements like Black Lives Matters, whether it’s holding protest signs, singing and dancing with the pulsing rhythms of “I’m Black/Ain’t Got No” or scoring with the 1960s rock aesthetic of “Black Boys” and the groovin’ funk of “White Boys.”

A deft and wide-open Waseem Alzer plays the eccentric tribe leader Berger, who lives clothing-optional and from trip to trip. Gavin Carnahan stars as the sweet-natured Claude from Queens who is about to be drafted and pretends that he is British in his amusing and irresistible  pop ditty “Manchester England.”

“HAIR” features Anna Jane Trinci as the pregnant Jeanie; Katerina McCrimmon as the outspoken NYU student protestor Sheila; and a committed Mitchell Bradford as Woof, the free spirit with an unhealthy attraction to Mick Jagger.

Two performers who just wrapped up “Spring Awakening” with Tamisiea, drop-in and tune-out with this ensemble. Kevin Ray Jones, as the Black Pantheresque militant Hud, simply astounds in “Electric Blues” and Cat Richmond, a serious soprano who is expanding her foray into musical theatre, lends her heavenly voice as the siren in “Be-In (Hare Krishna),” and all while being hoisted nearly upside down by her mates.

Paige Vasel is Chrissy in “HAIR.”

The Tribe also includes Sonni James, who appeared in last year’s production of “Romeo é Juliette”; Jena Brooks returning after “West Side Story” last season; a pining Paige Vasel as Chrissy in the solemn “Frank Mills” ballad; baritone Nicholas Hawkins in his second year with Glow; and Tierney Breedlove now in her third season in Greenville.

Perhaps “HAIR” doesn’t hold the same shock value 50 years out, but this is an 18+ production nonetheless and is not recommended for children. The cast has a tastefully-executed surprise in store as well. Kudos to the cast for their dedication and willingness to step out of their … comfort zone for the sake of art.

For more information about the impressive cast , visit http://www.glowlyric.com/artists/season-ensemble/

This production is heavy on appropriately euphoric mood lighting (Kevin Frasier), especially during the “trips” and the Vietnam sequences.

Henry Wilkinson’s stage design evokes a sprawling commune flat with oriental rugs and Mexican blankets draping the tiered platforms. Justin Hall is costume designer of the convincing hippie attire. Kerryn Stroud is props designer, James Bretimeier is sound designer, and Jessica Karnes is stage manager.

The outstanding live band in this production includes Elser on organ, Andrew Welchel on keyboard, Zac Bolton on guitar, Samuel Kreuer and Shannon Hoover on bass, Chris Earle on percussion and Tom Dolamore on drums.


REVIEW: Glow Lyric Theatre’s ‘The Crucible’ is Compelling Tragic Opera

CAROLINA CURTAIN CALL

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

Life as a Puritan in 1692 Massachusetts is doldrums for certain. Why else would its residents implode over land, miscarriages, money, the church and adultery and accuse one other of witchcraft?

Discover all of this and the elaborate musicality of Glow Lyric Theatre’s presentation of “The Crucible,” which runs in repertory through Friday, July 28 with “The  Gondoliers” and “HAIR” at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville.

Music Directed by Christian Elser and Directed by Jenna Tamisiea, some 32 opera singers and an exuberant 18-piece orchestra of strings, reeds and brass revel in Robert Ward’s majestically somber score and Bernard Stambler’s intelligent, faithful libretto of Arthur Miller’s 1953 iconic play about the Salem witch trials and inspired by the Red Scare during the McCarthy years. Miller himself was called by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to reveal names.

The 1962 Pulitzer Prize winner in Music, “The Crucible” is a tragedy and a more daunting task thematically and visually than either of Glow’s other two programs that “Question Authority,” the 2017 summer festival mantra.

The story centers on the love triangle between John (baritone Jeremiah Johnson as more stoic protagonist) and Elizabeth Proctor (the world-renowned mezzo-soprano Melissa Parks in an awestruck performance with rawness and vulnerability) and his mistress and former servant Abigail Williams, sung by soprano Jeanette Simpson.

Spurned by her lover, Abigail and a group of young girls accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft, spurning a frenzy of accusations in this town and ending very badly. Let’s just say there are no fires in this production.

Johnson, who with Ms. Parks also play the married couple Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro in “The Gondoliers,” makes a striking impression in his impactful aria, “I’ve forgotten Abigail” as he touchingly expresses his pain and conviction with aplomb.

And Ms. Simpson sings her case for love and vengeance with technical astonishment, offering John (and the audience) her path to forgiveness and redemption.

This is a fine and compelling opera work wrought with tension, and it has robust, dramatic conclusion. In addition to the outstanding soloists and duets throughout, highlights include the courtroom segment lead by the impressive stylings of Hugo Vera as Judge Danforth and a marvelous turn by soprano Macie VanNorden as the Proctor’s servant Mary Warren, who is torn between truth and survival. There is also a nicely-executed and entertaining act of defiance by the girls who all are consumed by the devil and go into convulsions. Brava, Ladies!

My only criticism is that this show almost beckons for a larger venue with a grandr set to match the breadth of the festival orchestra and the artists. And the under-utilized chorus which only sings briefly and moves props, appears as if its members want to burst out of formation at any time.

The Puritans had no sense of style and that is conveyed in every detail of the minimalist set (Henry Wilkinson’s practical and pleasing triple-show design) and Justin Hall’s dresses and doublets in modest hues of blacks, grays and browns and plentiful collars, cuffs, aprons and shoe buckles.

Kevin Frazier is lighting designer, Kerry Stroud designed the props, and Jessica Karnes is stage manager.


Opera Wire: Q & A: Glow Lyric Theatre’s Husband & Wife Team On Marrying Opera, Operetta & Musical Theater With Political Discourse

It is rare to see a production company put on a combination of opera, operetta, and musical theater. While most viewers recognize the relationship between the three, they often struggle to assimilate them in the same breath, much less the same stage.

But the three can be viewed on the same stage. And when given the opportunity, they can even illuminate one another.

Such is the case with South Carolina’s Glow Lyric Theatre, a company dedicated to this very trio of art forms and the way that they can all work together to express specific worldviews. Every year the company, led by the husband and wife team of Christian Elser and Jenna Tamislea, who met on a performance put on three performances, one opera, one operetta, and one piece of musical theater, with similar thematic ideas.

For this upcoming season, which opens on July 13 and runs through the 30th, will put on a program entitled “Question Authority” that will feature “The Crucible,” “Hair,” and “The Gondoliers.”

The duo, of course, comes from diverse backgrounds with Elser an opera singer and Tamislea working in musical theater. It is no surprise that the two met while working with Light Opera Oklahoma on a production of “Showboat.”

“We had a chance meeting and we fell in love,” Tamislea told OperaWire in a recent interview.

No doubt, they hope that those who experience this trio of art forms back to back will experience a similar catharsis.

OperaWire: What is the Glow Lyric Theatre?

Christian Elser: We’re an interesting hybrid. I really take the “lyric” part of our name to heart. I am an opera singer and we wanted to present all basic forms of song, opera, operetta, and musical theater. In this country, opera is not necessarily a national form. American musical theater is. So, we have a unique season where we take a theme and present an opera, operetta and work of musical theater around that theme. That’s what makes it unique.

Jenna Tamisiea: And what our mission revolves around is producing opera, operetta and musical theater that reflect the social and political climate of South Carolina. We’re doing a lot because we’re a smaller company in the South. What we want to do is ignite change and start a conversation around these three art forms. So, when Christian mentions we pick a theme, it’s more than a theme. What we do is we make a statement with our season about what is going on in our world today, and more specifically what we might be dealing with here in SC.

OW: How did you pick this theme or idea?

JT: We had a different season planned this year and then November rolled around and the presidential race was happening. And then Trump was elected. That’s when we decided and realized how polarized everything was. There were two extremely divided sides by these two political opponents. We wanted to do a season that could reflect on coming together and also about questioning what was happening in our political sphere.

CE: And if you look, a lot of times on the right and left, people pick a side without questioning what they want out of it. I think in this country, change has happened when people have stood up against the familiar paradigm and questioned things. What country do I want to live in? That’s what became apparent for our season after the election.

OW: So how do these works line up with that theme in your view?

CE: “The Crucible” is an opera I’ve known for 30 years. And I’ve have loved it and it doesn’t get produced as much as, say, “Madama Butterfly.” I figured it was very timely right now. We constantly hear Mr. Trump speak of these witch hunts against him… Which makes me laugh a little bit. Arthur Miller wrote the play in response to the McCarthy hearings and the idea that you are guilty until proven innocent. It was kind of a mob mentality back then. I thought that this really questioned blind authority. And we started to peel off from there.

JT: As for musical theater, we picked “Hair” because it is not only a seminal work in American musical theater, but it is also a protest musical. We were seeing around the time of the election, so many protests. It’s the quintessential protest musical, but it’s also pro-love, anti-war. In some way, it is also anti-military because it’s anti-Vietnam. It is also the other end of the spectrum with what was happening in “The Crucible.”

OW: What has been the experience of reframing “Hair” in the modern context?

JT: What’s really exciting is that everyone in the cast is a millennial and they have their own form of protest that is happening now. So, we found that the relevancy of that piece lives on in the political and social culture right now.

OW: And where does the Gondoliers fit into all of this?

C: We love Gilbert and Sullivan and I think that comedy is the best way to illustrate absurdity. And that’s what they do best. “The Gondoliers pokes” fun at both sides. The idea that these gondoliers are crowned kings and then everyone realizes that they’re socialists, it’s funny. We updated it. We added contemporary references to the songs. We call it our SNL of the season. We have these heavy shows and then we have “The Gondoliers” which pokes fun at authority. So it rounds out nicely.

OW: What other themes have you done in the past?

JT:  We’ve had a rather rough time in South Carolina the last few years with the shooting in Charleston, the Confederate Flag controversy. We produced black musical theater one year. And then last season, because of Nicki Haley’s decision not to admit Syrian refugees, we did “West Side Story” and “Romeo and Juliet” in response to that. We had thought about looking at racial inequality in South Carolina for this season, but it became so much larger when the political election came about.

OW: Art is inherently political, but we don’t often see organizations as open about their political perspectives as Glow Lyric Theatre. How do your audiences respond to this politicization of art on your end?

CE: This is the beautiful part of art. And audiences will accept something that they would normally be resistant to when it is cloaked in beautiful art. Look at “South Pacific.” It is racist, but it has beautiful tunes. “The Crucible” has beautiful music as well but it is cloaked in a baroque story and a dark drama. So, I think that is the beauty of theater in general. You can inherently make a statement without putting in someone’s face. It causes you to lean forward and make you think. It isn’t passive. You can take whatever you want out of it. Verdi’s “Nabucco” wasn’t about the Bible and Nebuchadnezzar. It was about the Austrian empire keeping hold of Italy. It was a political statement. We don’t want to be heavy-handed, but we have a mission and if you listen and watch, you’ll have something to think about.

JT: But I think it’s important to point out one thing. I think that we don’t necessarily want it to be about changing anyone’s life or mind. It’s about starting a conversation. If we don’t talk about it or see things that make us think, then we can’t start a conversation.

CE: Right. Theatre exercises the empathy muscle. That is often what is missing in political discourse. You’re not empathizing with the other side. You’re just taking your polemic stance.

OW: What were the challenges of creating this company? What have you learned in last 8 years?

JT: We’re a husband and wife team, so that has its own challenges. But in general, I have a musical theater background and Christian has an opera background as performers. So, when we started this company, we didn’t know what we were doing. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. We started it because we saw a need in our community. There was no opera or operetta in our community. There was no truly professional musical theater in our state. So, we decided to present things. And that moved to the point where we started it and thought that maybe it would be less than it is. We thought it would be one or two performances a year. But then people started to come out to see what we were doing and wanted to support us.

CE: It also helped that because we are professionals, we could put together high-quality performances. We have three singers from the Metropolitan Opera right now, but we’ve always had high-quality performers. That helps. It’s professional regional opera. People realize the difference and it helps a lot.

OW: What works would you like to put together for the future?

CE: For me, I desperately want to do Carlyle Floyd’s “Susannah.” Carlisle Floyd is from South Carolina and he’s still with us. That is the big show and I want to do it right. That is number one on my list.

JT: My dream musical to direct would be “South Pacific.” It is a special one because we met during a production of it. But I also think it is undervalued in what it has to say about humanity. That would be my number one choice.

OW: And operetta?

CE: Operetta, it’s tougher. I would love to do Romberg or something fun if I could work it in. There is always a market for Gilbert and Sullivan because there are still people that love it. I’m a sucker for that stuff. I would love to do one of their lesser known works. They have a lot to say and are so much fun.


REVIEW: Glow Lyric Theatre Gets Giddy in Glorious ‘Gondoliers’

CAROLINA CURTAIN CALL

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

Glow Lyric Theatre’s 7th Summer Festival season has taken audiences on a far-out trip to a 1968 hippie commune, and to the witch trials of 1692 Salem. Now, in the company’s finale production, Glow sets sail to Venice in the farcical operetta “The Gondoliers,” a plucky, well-groomed voyage that is light as a tiara, but ever so bitingly timeless.

“The Gondoliers” opens with trumpeter Chris Imhoff marching in with violinist Simone Little Beach, Chris Earle on snare drum, and Glow Music Director Christian Elser on accordion, in a prelude arrangement that astutely and fancifully sets the tone for the blissful, topsy-turvy proceedings to come.

This lively operetta is both musically snappy and visually dreamy, and unabashed about emphasizing Glow’s theme this year: “Question Authority.” Moreover, the antics in this fictional kingdom prove as relevant today as the company’s electrifying staging of  “HAIR,” which, with the engaging opera of “The Crucible,” is being presented in repertory through July 30.

And whereas this final great work by Gilbert & Sullivan lampooned the monarchy in 1889 Victorian England, director/choreographer Jenna Tamisiea is not shy about the subject of satire in this revival, which she and husband/co-founder Elser spiritedly call “the SNL skit” of the season.

In addition to anachronisms like cell phones and references to the Kardashian clan, entire passages of the libretto (public domain) have been re-written to reflect the current political and social climate in the era of the Trump family dynasty. The Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach is mentioned, and as well as amusing new choruses that include lines such as “I like to run errands on my big brand new jet airplane,” referring to the president’s wasteful use of Air Force One.”

“The Gondoliers” is an absurdist, hilarious romp about down-trodden aristocrats who pin their future on their daughter’s marriage to the heir to the throne of Barataria. He was kidnapped as an infant 20 years ago but now has been discovered to be one of two simple gondoliers, both whom have taken new brides.

The brothers Marco and Giuseppe, the two sexiest gondoliers in all of Venice, have the adoration of every woman and girl in the city, as demonstrated by the finest female ensemble I have seen all season. This incredible gaggle of the female gender in all ages, exudes the epitome of pure Savoy giddiness as they dance and swoon (even faint) in the “List and Learn” movement, and all the while taking such pleasure in the material. And this scene is made all the more pleasing by their winsome, authentic village wear by costumer Erin Barnett.

The leading men in “The Gondoliers” are the dynamic duo of tenor James Smidt (also playing Reverend Parris in “The Crucible”) in exceptional form (and blue and white Dr. Seuss socks) as the flamboyant, suave and vain Marco, and dashing baritone James Siarris, who maintains the charisma of Elvis but with a hilarious, dippy grin worn the entire operetta, as the less brainy brother Giuseppe.

They are countered and complimented by their newlyweds Tessa (Laura Thomason) and Gianetta (Macie VanNorden), both with high-caliber vocals that are especially lovely when paired in “Here we are at the risk of our lives.”

Boats are a recurring theme in “The Gondoliers,” but never was a voyage so deliriously momentous as  “From the sunny Spanish shore,” the splendid four-part patter song reminiscent of “Three little maids from school are we” in “The Mikado.” It makes one wonder what Gilbert & Sullivan would have done with “Titanic.”

This merry quartet features noble and witty performances by Jeremiah Johnson and Melissa Parks (who also sing the married couple roles of John and Elizabeth Proctor in “The Crucible”) as the down-on-their-luck Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro seeking their daughter’s claim to the Barataria fortune.

And though we don’t see enough of them in the second act, the spotlight never dims on daughter Casilda and her footman and clandestine love, Luiz: the dazzling Jeanette Simpson, who gives a daring dramatic turn as the spiteful Abigail in “The Crucible,” thrives here as a comic soprano, sharing a lascivious, overheated libido with her Latin lover, the smashing Hugo Vera, who also plays polar-opposite in “The Crucible” as the trial judge.

Samuel Kreuer plays bass and Hailey Anthum Hunter is on piano for this production, which also includes a most amusing Ryan Allen as Don Alhambra del Bolero; and AJ Trinci, Waseem Alzer, John Siarris, Gavin Carnahan, Jessie Barnett, Emlynn Shoemaker, Holly Caprell, Elizabeth DeVault, Katherine Kuhfuss, Chloe Miller, Katerina McCrimmon, and Paige Vasel.

The little townspeople are played by Karis King, Trace King, Maddi Lawson, Margaret Devine and Olivia Woodall. And the canine part of Isabella la Perrita is carried by the Maltese/Yorkie Sophie Gibbes.

For more information about the impressive cast, visit http://www.glowlyric.com/artists/season-ensemble/

Henry Wilkinson is scenic designer on “The Gondoliers,” with Maranda DeBusk as lighting designer, Kerry Stroud on props, and Jessica Karnes as stage manager.

“The Gondoliers” opens tonight at 8 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center, 102 Pine Knoll Drive in Greenville, and runs in repertory through Sunday, July 30 with “The Crucible” and “HAIR.” For tickets, call (864) 558-4569 or visit http://www.glowlyric.com/tickets.


GLOW Founders in Focus

Not your average couple, GLOW Founders artistic director Jenna Tamisiea Elser and executive director Christian Elser, have built Greenville Lyric Opera Company on the vision for a theatre company that believes in the power of the arts to ignite important conversations regarding issues within our community and our nation.  

Check out what the dynamic duo had to say about Glow’s founding, the importance of art as a tool for change, and even some sneak peek details for what you can expect to see on the Glow stage this summer!

 

Question: Could you tell us a bit about your backgrounds and where you’ve done opera and musical theatre?

Jenna Tamisiea Elser: I have a BFA in musical theatre from the University of Tulsa, and once I graduated from there I had quite a lovely career as a musical theatre actress, and I actually transitioned into directing for the stage and received my Masters in Directing at Florida State University.

Christian Elser: I had a career as an opera singer for about twenty years or so… I have a doctorate music degree and teach college voice, and run a collegiate opera program, while still singing and conducting around the U.S.

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Question: What’s it like being a wife-husband duo in creating something like GLOW?

Christian: Well for those of you who don’t know, the two of us met in Tulsa Oklahoma, when we were both performing in The Gilbert and Sullivan classic The Sorceror.

Jenna: It was an absolute showmance!

Christian:We’re an 11 year long showmance.

Jenna: Total showmance. And now that we run Glow together, it’s a large part of our personal life and professional life, and I just couldn’t think of anybody better to spend my time with.

Christian:  I couldn’t agree more!

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Question: And not only is GLOW producing incredible musical works to keep the showmance going, but you both have really envisioned GLOW as theatre that is really trying to be representative of under privileged communities and current issues!

 

Christian: It’s true, we’re unique in that we have focus on  theatre for social justice, and our mission is to produce works that are in direct response to the social and political climate of the state and country at the time.

Jenna: And that’s really part of the reason why Christian and I founded this company and decided to promote social justice through the work we’re doing. It’s because we really do believe that art has the power to change communities.

Christian: If you look through the history of opera, the operetta, and especially the musical theatre they’ve always had something very poignant to say about the situation, culturally and politically, of the time, while also telling a wonderful story that connects audiences to these situations.

Jenna: We want to spark dialogue and ignite change, and the arts are such a wonderful way to do that, because it’s very very hard to go to the theatre and have a closed heart!

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Question: So tell us about what’s lined up for the 2017 Season, and the how you’re tackling this year’s festival theme of “Question Authority”.

Jenna: So this season our theme is “Question Authority” and underneath this theme we’re producing three amazing shows! The first is Robert Ward’s operatic adaptation of The Crucible, next we have the tribal rock musical from the 60s, HAIR, and finally we have the very satirical and hysterical and satirical Gilbert and Sullivan classic “The Gondoliers”.

Christian: You may ask what do these shows have in common and how do they question authority? And the standout is probably HAIR. It is a show about protest, the Vietnam War, about social issues, and really to our dismay, these remain the issues fifty years later.

Jenna: HAIR breaks all the rules. It focuses on their struggle against this repressive world, when what they want to do is live free to be who they are.

Christian: The Crucible has a lot to say through this prevailing story that you are guilty until proven innocent, and covers this mob mentality of the Salem Witch Trials.

Jenna: And you hear the phrase witch hunts bounced around a lot lately in our political climate, and The Crucible centers around a lot of mass hysteria, of fear of the unknown, fear of stepping outside.

Christian: Fear of asking questions…

Jenna: Even fear of not going with the group.

Christian: And The Gondoliers is our comedic offering, the entire show is about questioning authority, it’s fantastic, it’s fun… and as Jenna likes to call it it’s our Saturday Night Live sketch of the season.

Jenna: And what I really love about The Gondoliers is how it pokes fun at both sides of the political sphere! And that’s an important reminder that laughter can be the cure for a lot of the ills of our society – that when we’re in a time like now that has turmoil and division, it’s laughter of both sides that can bring us together.

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 2.16.16 PMQuestion: We know we can’t wait to get our tickets! Is there anything else excited audience members can do to prepare for the season?

Jenna: We want to know how you question authority! Put it on our Facebook, get involved with our mailing list…we really want our season to start really important conversations!

Christian:“What does questioning authority mean to you? Tell us!

Jenna: Keep checking back in and become part of the dialogue! Who knows, your ideas may even become part of the season!

 

Don’t miss out on your chance to see the incredible work of our co-founders and “Question Authority” this summer at Glow Lyric. You can book your tickets today at http://www.glowlyric.com/tickets/, and make sure to get involved in the conversations GLOW’s Facebook and Twitter!


Meet the Cast of Love is Love is Love! Madeline Roy

16736224_658947304307152_2067056952_nAs Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

Next in our fabulous cast is the talented and hilarious singer and actress Madeline Roy! In our interview we discussed her upcoming role in Love is Love is Love, as well as her experiences as a trans woman in the Upstate.

 

Q: So this is your first time working with GLOW, could you tell us a bit about your roll in the show?

A: Yes this is my first time working with glow.  Q2 I am ultimately myself, Madeline, in the show and my role is somewhat of a transitional character setting up a few of our comedic scenes.

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit about what drew you to the project?

A: After seeing a post on Facebook about the cabaret, i thought to myself, “Yes! Now is my chance to really be myself on stage, no typecasting, no judgement just be myself and perform!” It’s just a great chance to be heard.

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about your experiences in the Upstate’s LGBTQ community?

A: My experience of being trans in the upstate has been a journey! There have been a few lows, from being kicked out of church, to disappointing medical care. But there have been even more highs on my journey, from meeting the wonderful people, to finding a trans-accepting therapist through my friends at the Gender Benders, as well as meeting a new doctor who has helped me with my journey becoming myself.

 

Q: And in the spirit of the season, what is your your dream Valentine’s date, and a Valentine’s candy you cannot go without?

A: My dream V-day Date would definitely be seeing an LGBT Cabaret with my significant other. And of course Valentine’s Day just isn’t Valentine’s Day without a Hershey’s Kiss (or 10)!

 

You won’t want to miss Madeline’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.


Meet the Cast of Love is Love is Love! Brook Nelson

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

Next in our fabulous cast is the incredibly talented vocalist vocalist Brook Nelson! In our interview we discussed her upcoming role in Love is Love is Love, as well as her experience as a “gay exMormon”.

 

Q: Is this your first time working with Glow? If not could you tell us a bit about what brought you back?

 

A: This is my second time working with GLOW! I worked on their 2016 Festival Season as a stitcher on the costume crew. I’m back because I love the work that Christian and Jenna do.

 

Q: Well we’re glad to have you back, and this time in a different role! Could you tell us a bit about this new role and what drew you to the project?

 

A: I’m onstage this time- delivering original pieces dealing with my experience as a gay exMormon and performing some familiar and powerful showtunes too. I really wanted to work on Love is Love is Love because I decided (a while ago) that I didn’t want to be quiet about things that matter to me anymore, and this is a pretty awesome opportunity to be loud!

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about your experienes in the Upstate’s LGBTQ community?

 

A: As a lesbian, I’ve seen first hand how our world is so divided, and people on all sides are so quick to cling only to people who share their views, as well as ostracize those who don’t. I think sometimes we forget that even people we disagree with are still people. Work like this is important because it helps other people to see who we are and where we’re coming from.

 

Q: And in the spirit of the season, what is your favorite Valentine’s gift you’ve ever received, your dream Valentine’s date, and a Valentine’s candy you cannot go without?

My mom once got me a hip hop hippo who dances to “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon Five, and I still have him. For date I have to go with star gazing then watching a movie, eating pizza, and cuddling. And to be honest, I kind of love conversation hearts.

You won’t want to miss Brooke’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.

 


Meet the Cast of Love is Love is Love! Niara Solarris

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Love is

Love is Love is just around the corner! And with the start of rehearsals, we will be introducing you to our phenomenal cast of LGBTQ and ally performers.

In today’s interview, we chat with Niara Solarris, as she discusses her upcoming role in Love is Love is Love, her own experience of being a transgender woman in the recording industry, and the important role that music and art have played in her life.

Q: Is this your first time working with Glow?

A: Yes it is my first time, though I’m already excited to audition and become a more frequent part of Glow!  I was actually invited to audition by my fellow cast mate (and friend Heather Feather-  it was definitely a blessing, and so is she!

Q: Tell us about your role in Love is Love is Love, and what drew you to the project!

A: I’ll be covering the role of the battered transgender ingenue’ who transforms from a victim into the femme fatale survivor; and I’ve been finding strength in my beauty and sexuality along the way.  As a freshly signed recording artist and A/R representative of Independent Distribution Label – Wordlife Entertainment/Ventures Beyond Productions, as well as an artist manager of the Underground Music Publishers – Metok Music, this was a fantastic way to use my expertise for something really personal to me.

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about your connection to the LGBTQ community and why it’s important to have works like Love is Love in the Upstate?

A: I myself am a M2F pre-op Transgender Woman who plans to get the full female surgery.  I also was an advocate for Affirm and PFLAG (LGBTQ societies) back when i was a teenager and young adult.  It’s important to have art like Love is Love is Love because art reflects that the world can change. And the only way we can have Equal Human Rights for every human is to use art to inspire compassion acceptance and tolerance.

4) In the spirit of the season, could you tell us your dream Valentines date, as well as your favorite Valentines candy?

My Dream Valentines date would be to go to Bahamas or Hawaii (with my date proposing of course!) And the Valentines day candy i cannot go without has to be any combination of chocolate and caramel.

You won’t want to miss Niara’s performance in Love is Love is Love on February 14th at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre. You can purchase tickets on the GLOW Website, for $25. Tickets include a pre show reception featuring delicious desserts and drinks provided by Upstate Pride SC.