Anchorage Opera’s production of “Die Fledermaus” keeps Johann Strauss’ music while updating the action from 1870s Vienna to contemporary Alaska. Playwright Deborah Brevoort has produced a text that follows the general lines of the original farce but spices up the sexual innuendo and tosses in witty references to recent events and local quirks — like removing your shoes when you walk into someone’s house.
In this revision, an oil executive is being sent to jail after being convicted of corruption; a CBC cap is among the costume items. In his absence his wife is visited by an ice road truck driver she used to date when she was a Democrat. The driver is hauled off to jail in the husband’s stead when their meeting is interrupted by the head of the Troopers. Meanwhile the husband, and the rest of the cast, is off to audition for the latest Alaska reality show, “Alaska has Culture,” with guns, axes, chainsaws, a little pole dancing and a whole lot of flirting cloaked in the language of salmon fishing. The cops take everyone to jail where the confusion is sorted out and everything ends happily.
Particularly good singing came from Kate Egan, as the executive’s wife, and Amber Gauthier as her maid. Both combined excellent pitch and tone with clear diction, though the lyrics were flashed above the stage.
Corey Bix as the old boyfriend and Neal Ferreira as the reality show’s producer had the best voices among the men. Bix used his fine tenor expressively and Ferreira flicked in some amusing and cleanly-executed falsetto breaks.
Scott Hogsed as the executive, Victor Benedetti as a former friend setting him up for payback for a prank (he was dressed up in a bat suit, tied up and left in front of the Daily News; the A-1 photo killed his shot at being elected to office, but landed him a nice job as a publicist when it went viral on the internet), and Duane McDevitt as the Trooper chief were vocally adequate but more notable for their comic acting — and there seemed to be more acting in the show than singing.
The named cast was rounded out by Michael More as the executive’s attorney, Katie Strock as a burlesque dancer and David Haynes in the non-singing role of the jailer. A number of other locals had cameos, from juggler Jim Kerr to dogs from the kennel of Iditarod musher Scott Janssen.
Director Bill Fabris brought his knack for well-turned slapstick to the show. Something amusing was always underway and clever choreography accompanied the musical numbers, not only the duets and trios but the trickier crowd scenes. The transformation of the show’s best-known waltz number into a “Chainsaw Ballet” was a highlight.
The large orchestra played very well under the baton of Kelly Kuo. This is not an opera where the conductor needs to be thinking about the big arch, but Kuo’s sharp attention to the familiar shorter numbers made for excellent listening.
The scenic design of Anita Algeine was an unexpected delight. The sets were practical, convincing and substantial. Act One featured the executive’s cathedral-roof home with great windows looking out on Alaska postcard scenes. A grill on the deck may have been a wink at the device that contributed to the grief of the late Senator Ted Stevens during his trial, one of the many Alaska insider jokes Brevoort and Fabris wove into the show; Egan, for instance, had a broad-shoulder dress that might have come out of Senator Lisa Murkowski’s wardrobe.
DIE FLEDERMAUS (The Polar Bat), will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday in the Discovery Theatre. Tickets are available at centertix.net. The show lasts three hours with two intermissions.
By chance, the first intermission of the opera coincided with the intermission of Anchorage Ballet's Triple Bill program in the Sydney Laurence Theatre next door. Members of the audience for that show told me they found it delightful. It will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.