The Second City
Guide to the Opera
Written by Jesse Case, Kate James
You’ll laugh your Aida off!!
|Second City and Lyric Opera of Chicago presents|
|The Second City Guide to the Opera|
Review by Katy Walsh
Upon arrival, it’s obvious that something is different. The usual bustling in the majestic Lyric foyer is missing. Hints of pop music are trickling through the Aisle 5 entryway. We follow the music into the vast, beautiful and unoccupied Ardis Krainik Theatre. The 3,500+ seats in the 5 storied auditorium are eerily empty. Still, there is a party up ahead on the stage. So, we walk towards it.
Cabaret style tables and couches create an elegant, makeshift Lyric lounge. There is a definite intimacy in this Civic Opera House party. The capacity is 350 guests. The waitstaff are wearing tuxedo t-shirts. The vibe is already playful. And the view is…wow! We get to see the Lyric from the perspective of the singers. It’s breathtakingly imposing.
This is already a unique evening of entertainment – and the show hasn’t even started. So, the overture kicks off the shenanigans. And unlike in the opera, this overture is actually sung by the cast. The tongue-n-cheek tune establishes the high-brow humor that will captivate for the next couple hours. The writing team of Jesse Case, Kate James and Timothy Sniffen have cleverly infused two Chicago icons. Doubling as musical director, Case provides the musical arrangements to showcase the opera and comedy. Also in a dual role, Sniffen is the hilarious master of ceremonies. He leads his merry band of Second City cronies; Joey Bland, Lili-Anne Brown, Beth Melewski, Tim Ryder and Andel Sudik. Bringing the opera are Mezzo-soprano Lauren Curnow and Tenor Bernard Holcomb. Although everyone can sing, Curnow and Holcomb remind us why we come to the Lyric. Their pop-up arias are stellar.
This feels a lot like the most pleasurable Reese’s Cup ever. The opera in the comedy. The comedy in the opera. It’s two things that taste great together. The show is a mish-mash of sketch comedy intermingled with opera. A Comcast customer is confronted with opera hold music. A therapist treats a variety of opera characters. A German composer tries to be a stand-up comedian. The bits are cerebral ticklers. Some of the intellectual humor might be lost on the more novice opera lover. Ryder, as the German composer, rattles off a series of music aficionado one liners. The content may not completely resonate with everyone. Yet, the delivery will. Ryder is still fricking funny.
Director Billy Bungeroth keeps the pace clipping. He makes the show personal. Some of the jokes are targeted at making fun of Lyric and Second City stereotypes. In one bit, the riotous Melewski hits on Curnow and Bernard. It’s a raunch, sophisticated smackdown. And it’s a hoot. Throughout the show, Melewski uses a few colorful metaphors that are especially chuckle-worthy based on location. It’s the does-she-know-she’s-on-the Lyric-stage that makes the jesting so amusing. This isn’t our typical Lyric experience. This isn’t our typical Second City experience. It’s a new innovation that is distinctively Chicago.
The Second City Guide to the Opera is how the Lyric spends its summer vacation. They hang out with their Second City friends and have more than a few laughs.
The Second City to the Opera continues through June 30th at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker (map), with performances Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 7pm. Seating is onstage, on a first-come-first-seated basis. Tickets are $35-$45 for general admission, and are available by phone (312-332-2244) or online through Lyric’s website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at LyricOpera.org. (Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Todd Rosenberg
behind the scenes