Jason Mills, Rebecca Pitcher, Thomas Souhrada Will Sing Pairing of Mildred Kayden Operas for York Theatre
By Kenneth Jones
The York Theatre Company is dusting off and giving voice to two short operas, Mardi Gras and The Last Word, with music by Mildred Kayden, best known for Ionescopade, in a winter workshop presentation directed by Bill Castellino.
The three-member company will feature Jason Mills (national tour and Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera), Rebecca Pitcher (The Phantom of the Opera) and Tom Souhrada (Broadway's Mary Poppins).
Performances, which are free and open to the public, will be Feb. 2 at 2:30 PM & 8 PM and Feb. 3 at 2:30 pm at The York Theatre Company in Saint Peter's, at 54th Street at Lexington Avenue. Christopher McGovern is musical director.
According to York, "These two short modern operas (sung in English) display the impressive musical range of composer Mildred Kayden — as well as her unique view of human relationships."
Kayden's Ionescopade was revived at the York Theatre in 2012, under the direction of Castellino (Grumpy Old Men, Dr. Radio, Cagney, Jolson at the Winter Garden and North Shore Music Theatre's Tarzan). Castellino will again helm Ionescopade for a June run at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles.
The two operas were presented in tandem in West Hampton, NY, in 1961. "They present a combination of the witty and the existential which makes for a memorable theatrical journey," according to York.
Mardi Gras (last performed in New York City in 1959) "combines the formality of opera, the beat of Dixieland Jazz and the style of commedia dell'arte. Commissioned by WNYC's Young Artist Series in 1958, it was suggested by Carl Carmer's verse play Pierrot Grows Up and is based upon a true story from the Mardi Gras of 1872. A Russian Grand Duke hears a Burlesque Queen sing and falls head over heels; the smitten Duke loses her to Joe, an American millionaire. The hilarious love triangle (with disguises, hiding places, duels, amorous looks, and lots of high notes beautifully sung) has a surprise ending and a delightful, tuneful score."
The Last Word, with libretto by the late poet James Broughton, premiered in Philadelphia in 1961 at the countrywide Synod of the United Church of Christ. "As the recent date of the Mayan end-of-the-world recedes into history, this riveting duet exposes the complex feelings of a husband and wife moments before Armageddon. This piece approaches its subject matter with humor, irony and compassion; the work suggests that, for modern man, the idea of the apocalypse is most easily grasped with a touch of wit."
All performances are free and open to the public. For reservations, visit yorktheatre.org.
The York Theatre Company is the only theatre in New York City — and one of very few in the world — dedicated to developing and fully producing new musicals and preserving neglected, notable shows from the past." York is under the leadership of James Morgan (producing artistic director) and Andrew Levine (executive director).
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