Chicago Theater Review: LONGER! LOUDER! WAGNER! THE SECOND CITY WAGNER COMPANION (The Second City and Lyric Opera)

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by Barnaby Hughes on October 26, 2016

in Theater-Chicago

MAKING FUN OF OPERA FUN AGAIN

This mostly satirical Lyric Opera/Second City co-production contains little irony apart from the title. For while it definitely IS about Wagner, it most certainly IS NOT loud or long (But why louder and longer anyway? Louder and longer than what?). This ninety-minute show comprises a series of interconnected sketches that combine to form a complex, swift-paced narrative about Richard Wagner and his famous Ring Cycle. But it’s also about Wagner’s (fictitious) great-grandson Fred (played by Tim Ryder), who comes to embrace his family lineage by abandoning the Shaumburg theater company he directs in favor of directing The Ring in Bayreuth itself.

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Longer! Louder! Wagner! is laugh-out-loud funny whether or not you’re familiar with Wagner, but if you are, you’ll certainly understand more of the jokes. References are made to all four Ring operas and some scenes are performed in English translation. The whole thing is a real treat for opera lovers. Writer Tim Sniffen and music director Jesse Case have done their research well. One of the cleverest things about many of the jokes is the way the good ones crop up again when you least expect them.

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Annaliese Toft directs a brilliant cast of eight: six from Second City, two from Lyric Opera. Jesse Case makes his Chicago acting debut as the genius composer Richard Wagner, playing piano throughout, as well as singing and acting. Sayjal Joshi, Randall Harr, Alice Stanley, Jr., and Travis Turner play a multitude of comic characters, some with German accents, from a librarian girlfriend and a flamboyant Bavarian king to radio talk show hosts and suburban theater actors. As Brunhilde and Wotan, Tracy Cantin and Jonah D. Winston show off their fine voices and practiced technique. It’s lovely to see them close-up in the more intimate confines of Lyric Opera’s rehearsal hall. Get ready for a show that has a little bit of everything and a lot of fun.

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photos by Todd Rosenberg

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Longer! Louder! Wagner! The Second City Wagner Companion
The Second City & Lyric Opera of Chicago
William Mason Rehearsal Hall
Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive
ends on October 30, 2016
for tickets, call 312.827.5600 or visit Lyric Opera

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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