The collaboration at Westmont College between the music and theater arts departments took another big step forward on March 2 and 4, when theater director John Blondell and musical director and conductor Michael Shasberger brought Die Fledermaus downtown to Ensemble Theatre Company’s New Vic. This charming and silly operetta from the Viennese tradition provided a perfect jumping-off point for the inventive team of performers and designers to show what they can do. Working with a full 16-piece orchestra onstage throughout posed certain logistical problems, but thanks to excellent and imaginative choices by the director, scenographer, costume designer, and choreographer, the presence of the musicians added rather than detracted from the fun.
Anna Telfer anchored the ensemble as Rosalinde, the clever and put-upon wife of the flirtatious and callow protagonist, Gabriel von Eisenstein (Kenny Galindo). In a show packed with funny performances, several nevertheless stood out. As Alfred, the Singing Teacher, Jon Lindsley was hilarious, sporting a flowing mane of blonde curls reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. Elena White turned in a classic version of the self-indulgent Russian Prince Orlofsky. Michelle Vera made an outstanding debut as Adele, and Merckx Dascomb and Nina Fox took the minor roles of the jailers Frogg and Nina, respectively, in a direction that was as comical as it was wholly unexpected.
Blondell’s decades of experience with Shakespeare and other classic theater texts continues to transfer very effectively to the world of opera, and the New Vic was packed with Westmont students and fans of their bold approach to the performing arts.