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Amahl and the Night Visitors

a Holiday Musical
CATEGORY :
by Gian Carlo Menotti

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 3608

SHOWING : December 13, 2009 - December 23, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Composed and Written by Gian Carlo Menotti
Produced in association with the
Georgia State University School of Music


Haunting and vivid musical interpretations capture the humble life of a crippled child and his impoverished mother and describe one mesmerizing evening when traveling magi from the East mysteriously seek rest with them. Among the unforgettable songs are Don’t Cry Mother Dear; From Far Away We Come; Good Evening!; Come In!; Have You Seen a Child?; Dance of the Shepherds; and All That Gold. In one night’s brief encounter, gifts both spiritual and material are bestowed on Amahl, who is miraculously healed and able to join the kings on their quest to find the Christ child. This introduction to opera is in English and only 50 minutes in length.

Performances of Amahl and the Night Visitors are:
7:30 pm on Thurs., Dec. 17, Fri., Dec. 18, Sat., Dec. 19,
and Tues., Dec. 22

2:30 pm on Sun., Dec. 13, Sat., Dec. 19, Sun., Dec. 20,
and Wed., Dec. 23

* For all ages.


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast Benjamin Maurice Bright
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Miracle Song
by Dedalus
Monday, December 21, 2009
4.5
For another entry in the “Holiday Classics” schedule, let me be the first to welcome back Gian Carlo Menotti’s mini-opera “Amahl and The Night Visitors,” now available at the Balzer Theatre in a coproduction of Theatrical Outfit and Georgia State University School of Music.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest fan of opera in general and Menotti in particular. An early ‘70’s run-in with his “The Consul” (an overblown and melodramatic story that shows suicide as a better option than bureaucracy) made me avoid his works entirely. Still, I have enjoyed broadcasts and films of some of the more mainstream works of Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi, so I wasn’t going to dismiss this production out of hand.

Imagine my surprise when I found a highly melodic, gently compelling story of one crippled boy’s run-in with the miraculous. To be sure, the story-line is contrived and designed to push all of our Christmastime Believe-in-Miracles buttons, but I found myself smiling at the honest emotions and interactions more than I was scoffing at the somewhat less-than-honest plot machinations.

In a brisk 55 minutes, we are introduced to Amahl, a crippled peasant living with his overworked mother. One night, they are visited by three Eastern Kings, all on their way to witness a promised miracle, following a star towards the town of Bethlehem. Faster than you can say “Christmas Cliché,” Amahl has cast aside his crutches, and is following the kings on their eastward journey.

There are a number of elements that make this production so successful. First and foremost is the music. Singers from the GSU School of Music attack the roles with a professionalism that highlights some of the finest voice work I’ve seen all year. At the same time, the acting is scaled down to fit inside the intimate Balzer venue, letting the music fill the space without overwhelming it. One of my problems with “The Consul,” was the over-emoted acting moments that rang false. Here, each moment was clear and honest and beautiful to witness.

Since the production was double-cast, I have no idea who it was I saw. The emotional center of the story was the Mother, sung by Brittanie Bagby (or maybe it was Jenny Kim) with mellow and wistful humor than was compelling to watch. She combined the expected mother-love with a more unexpected Hostess-Kindness when the guests arrived. Her farewell to her son at the end was heartbreaking at the same time it exulted in his new-found health.

The leader of the kings, Melchior (Dan Altman or Stephen McCool) was all authority and fervor without being a caricature or a story-book “cut out.” The cast was filled with a wide range of voices that filled out the choral segments beautifully.

As Amahl, Thomas McKean (or Ruben Roy, or Eric Stumiolo) of course did have the well-developed voice of the adults, but he was nevertheless always on key, always in character, and always charming. He more than anyone else made the miracle of the story believable.

The set was a nicely realized hovel in the middle of a wide open plain, a beautiful starfield backing it all. The orchestra made a sound belying its small size, and never overpowered the singers (I don’t think it could). And, there was even room for a gently choreographed dance that added just another grace note to an already graceful production.

This piece was written for television in 1951 (which explains the short running time) and is sung in understandable English. It will be at the Balzer Theatre through December 23, and I highly recommend you pay a visit. This is the perfect show to introduce a younger audience to opera, a perfect show to revive your own interest in it.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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