KURT JOHNS' PROJECTS

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IOLANTHE:

An Operetta
Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan
Libretto by Sir W.S. Gilbert

Directed by Kurt Johns
Choreographed by Rudy Hogemiller
Courtney O’Neill (Scenic Design),
Darcy Hofer (Costumes),
Marvin Riebe (Hair and Make-Up), Andrew Meyers (Lighting),
Miles Polaski (Sound),
Mary Kate Rix (Properties)

A group of rowdy fairies meddle with British parliament to ensure that love will conquer all. Justly hailed as the Gilbert & Sullivan connoisseur's favorite, this magical operetta mixes romance, satire and fantasy.

 

 

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IOLANTHE is directed by Kurt Johns.  In 2007, he directed BERLIN TO BROADWAY WITH KURT WEILL for Light Opera Works.  Kurt directed the critically acclaimed IRON, TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE, and VINCENT IN BRIXTON (After Dark Award) and the regional premiere of THE MISTRESS CYCLE at Apple Tree Theatre.  He directed THE WATER COOLERS (Jeff nominated) at the Lakeshore Theatre.  Kurt appeared in the Broadway productions of ASPECTS OF LOVE and CHESS. He portrayed Enjolras in the First National Tour of LES MISERABLES and starred Off-Broadway in SHARON! directed by Geraldine Fitzgerald. At the Goodman Theatre, Kurt appeared in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and SHE ALWAYS SAID, PABLO. He played Hildy in WINDY CITY (Jeff nominated), Baron Felix in GRAND HOTEL, Che in EVITA and Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Kurt received a Jeff Award for A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING at the Drury Lane Theatre.          

Light Opera Works artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller will choreograph IOLANTHE. Hogenmiller has directed and choreographed many productions for the company including KISS ME, KATE, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE MIKADO, THE MERRY WIDOW and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. He has been recognized with six Joseph Jefferson Awards and 16 nominations for best direction and choreography in Chicago. Hogenmiller has been a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers for more than 25 years.

Light Opera Works Music Director Roger L. Bingaman will conduct the 28-piece orchestra.  Bingaman made his first appearance on the Light Opera Works podium in 1997, conducting THE MERRY WIDOWSince then he has conducted many Light Opera Works productions including BEAUTIFUL HELEN OF TROY, THE STUDENT PRINCE, SWEETHEARTS, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY, SOUTH PACIFIC, 110 IN THE SHADE, KISS ME, KATE, BITTER SWEET, OKLAHOMA! and GIGI.  Bingaman has been director of the apprentice program and chorus master for the Sarasota Opera since 1998. 

Jessye Wright (Iolanthe) last appeared with Light Opera Works as Manon in BITTER SWEET.  Miss Wright is among four mezzos earning distinction as an “Upwardly Musical Artist on the Move” in Symphony Magazine’s Guide to Emerging Artists.  Past productions for Miss Wright include Mozart’s MESSIAH at Carnegie Hall with MidAmerica Productions; the title role in CARMEN at Ravinia Music Festival with Opera Theater North; and Pitti-Sing in THE MIKADO with Nashville Opera.  A past national semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions, Jessye received the Ardis Krainik Memorial Prize in Voice from Chicago’s National Bel Canto Foundation and won 2nd place in the 2005 International Classical Singer Competition. 

James Harms (Lord Chancellor) was at Light Opera Works last summer directing BITTER SWEET.  He then played the title role in SCROOGE! THE MUSICAL and revived his award winning role of Albin in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at Theatre at the Center.  He recently performed in the remounting of THE VISIT, a new musical with Chita Rivera and George Hearn at Signature Theatre in Virginia.  A member of Actors’ Equity Association since 1963, he has appeared at nearly all the major theaters in Chicago and has toured nationally and internationally in EVITA, THE FANTASTICKS and JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT.  Mr. Harms is the recipient of eight Joseph Jefferson Awards. 

Alicia Berneche (Phyllis) appeared last summer at Light Opera Works as Sari Linden in BITTER SWEET and previously as Resi in THE GREAT WALTZ.  Ms. Berneche has performed extensively in the United States, appearing at Lyric Opera of Chicago as Daisy Buchanan in THE GREAT GATSBY, Goodman Theatre, The Barbican, and BAM in the world premiere of Philip Glass’ GALILEO GALILEI, and was on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera. During this past season she performed DIE FLEDERMAUS with the Austin Lyric Opera and Orlando Opera, THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE with Virginia Opera, and returns as Despina in COSI FAN TUTTE at Sarasota Opera. Upcoming performances include Mimi in LA BOHEME at Skylight Opera Theater and Mabel in THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE at Sacramento Opera.

Colm Fitzmaurice (Strephon) appeared with Light Opera Works as Frederic in THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Ralph in H.M.S. PINAFORE, Prince Karl Franz in THE STUDENT PRINCE and Camille in THE MERRY WIDOW.  This season, he premiered at New York’s City Center and toured the United States as Prince Hilarion in PRINCESS IDA, Frederic in THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Ralph in H.M.S. PINAFORE and Marco in THE GONDOLIERS, all with The NY Gilbert and Sullivan Players.  Other recent appearances include a concert of Spanish Zarzuela and song in Pontevedre, Spain and Henry in MIDNIGHT ANGEL with Milwaukee’s Skylight Opera Theater. Colm made his European debut in Paris as Tamino and later toured Germany as Tony in WEST SIDE STORY.   He has starred with Dayton Opera and Virginia Opera and has sung with Indianapolis Opera and Pittsburgh Opera.

Veronica McHale’s (Queen of the Fairies) recent credits include her debut with Union Avenue Opera as La Zia Principessa in SOUR ANGELICA, La Ciesca in GIANNI SCHICCHI and the cover role of Dame Quickly in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of FALSTAFF.   She was also featured in the Classical Singer January 2008 issue.  This fall she is pleased to be the Alto soloist in Rossini’s, PETITE MESSE SOLENNELLE with The Bel Canto Chorus, as the result of winning second place in their Oratorio competition.  This November, Veronica will perform Dame Quickly in a New York Opera Society production of FALSTAFF at the Municipal Theater of Castres, in France. 

Frank DeVincentis (Private Willis) has been active in oratorio and opera for the past seven years.  His performance credits include Germont in LA TRAVIATA, the title role in SWEENEY TODD, Seneca in L’INCORANAZIONE DI POPPEA and Cinderella’s Prince in INTO THE WOODS.  Frank is also a member of THE 3 BARITONES– a concert trio specializing in opera, lieder, and contemporary American music. 

Alex Honzen (Lord Montararat) has appeared with Light Opera Works as The Pirate King in THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Pooh-Bah in THE MIKADO, the Second Gunman in KISS ME, KATE, Herr Schlick in BITTER SWEET, Jud Fry in OKLAHOMA! and Dufresne in GIGI.  Other appearances include DuPage Opera Theatre (Scarpia in TOSCA), The Dubuque Symphony (BRAHMS REQUIEM), Da Corneto Opera (Melitone in LA FORZA DEL DESTINO), Chamber Opera Chicago (Police Agent in THE CONSULT), Bowen Park Opera (Count Almaviva in LE NOZZE DI FIGAROL) and American Opera Group (Escamillo in Peter Brook’s LA TRAGEDIE DE CARMEN).

Bill Chamberlain (Lord Tolloller), a frequent performer with Light Opera Works, was last seen as Lord Shayne in last season’s BITTER SWEET.  He has also performed with Lyric Opera of Chicago (where he was a member of the Lyric Opera Center), Santa Fe Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Fort Worth Opera, Skylight Opera Theater, Texas Opera Theater, Bowen Park Opera (Waukegan, IL), the Grant Park Music Festival, Long Leaf Opera (Durham, NC) and the Opera Company of North Carolina.  Other roles include Don Ottavio in DON GIOVANNI, Nika Magadoff, the Magician, in Menotti’s THE CONSUL, the Dance Master in ARIANDNE AUF NAXOS, Peter Quint in Britten’s THE TURN OF THE SCREW, Pang in TURANDOT and Doc in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA.  

The production team for IOLANTHE includes Jenniffer J. Thusing (Stage Manager). Elizabeth Lovelady (ASM) and Paige Keedy (Production Manager).

REVIEWS FOR IOLANTHE

A fresh twist on Victorian Satire...Iolanthe is stylishly droll. Just take a peek at Light Opera Works' beguiling, often-hilarious revival of "Iolanthe," now in a lavishly designed, hugely engaging revival. The little miracle in all this is how deftly and convincingly the Light Opera Works cast ... make the show feel wholly fresh.
Credit director Kurt Johns for his impeccable sense of style
...More
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Chicago Sun Times - Hedy Weiss

Light Opera Work’s production, under the swift flowing direction by Kurt Johns and movement by Rudy Hogenmiller, allows the satire and comedy to flourish. This lightness is refreshing. We have as good a time as the performers—we all smile. The ensemble work here is first class, blending fine harmonies and swift movements. Be sure to catch this vintage Gilbert and Sullivan operetta soon—you only have a few days to laugh and tap you toes to such a charmingly pleasant musical treat....More
HIGHLIY RECOMMENDED
ChicagoCritic.com - Tom Williams

Kurt Johns has directed the production with enough flare to disguise the fact that the show has little physical action. So much beautiful singing, so much visual creativity, and so few performances.
FOUR STARS
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Dan Zeff - Copley News Service

A glorious gift from 1882...The result is a musical banquet as clever as it’s melodious, well worth a revival as excellent as Kurt Johns’ sterling staging....you’ve got an evening of sublimely escapist entertainment, possibly the best this summer has offered. You’ll leave humming your way to heaven....More
Lawrence Bommer
Chicago Free Press

Iolanthe marches on with a lilt: They’ve got some spunky fairies up in the Evanston “Iolanthe.” One brought to mind a younger Kristin Chenoweth, and another Amy Winehouse, albeit lighter on her toes and more smiley. The youthful vigor and insouciance of the fairy ensemble... get the tone just right—honest but, well, a tad Pythonesque. And thoroughly unpredictable. May the insouciant giddiness of the young—and the young at heart—shake the cobwebs from the rest of the enterprise....More 
RECOMMENDED
Chicago Tribune - Chris Jones

... this is a very pretty and faithful rendering, as Stage Director Kurt Johns and Artistic Director Rudy Hogenmiller pay homage to the centuries old traditions of the D'Oyly Carte classic productions.... "Iolanthe" is a silly little trifle, but Light Opera Works gives it a beautiful production.More
3 Stars - RECOMMENDED
SteadStyleChicago.com

Suspend disbelief and enjoy Light Opera Works' 'Iolanthe' ...Unless you accept this, nothing wonderful can happen....And wonderful things do happen...You don't have to believe in fairies to enjoy this show, but it helps....More
RECOMMENDED
Dorothy Andries
Pioneer Press

Director Kurt Johns would easily bring a tear to the eyes of Gilbert and Sullivan who may be smiling at him from a celestial distance.  He’s created a believable Arcadian world in this production fueled simply on the high energy of brilliant voices, sidesplitting comedy and stunning costumes by Darcy Elora Hofer and a near Eden of a set by Courtney O’Neill....More
Ruth Smerling
SteadstyleChicago.com

Substitute red and blue states for conservative and liberal, and the proceedings allow us a good laugh at ourselves in an election year. The irony is at a premium, with the fairies and the members of the House of Lords achieving the right amount of tongue-in-cheek... the chorus, orchestra and overall sense of mayhem and spectacle, sparkle.
Dennis Polkow
New City Chicago

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