The UNCG Schools of Music and Theatre collaborated together under the direction of David Holley to put on the final production of the year, “Falstaff.” “Falstaff,” an opera adapted from Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” follows a fat, vain and boastful ex-knight, Sir John Falstaff (Richard Zeller), who believes he can seduce two young married women, Alice Ford (Victoria Erickson) and Meg Page (Tamara Bailey).
Falstaff delivers a message to both women, the message identical except for the name, confessing his love for them. The two, angered by the act, derive a plot to teach him a lesson by inviting him to the Ford household while Master Ford (Christian Blackburn) is away. At the same time, Ford had taken it upon himself to deal with Falstaff by offering him a large sum of gold, in disguise, if his wife were to give into Falstaff’s flirtations. When Falstaff reveals that he was invited to the Ford household that same day, Ford erupts in a jealous rage, and goes to crash their meeting. After the women get rid of Falstaff and their plan is revealed to Ford, they all plot a meeting in the forest at midnight where they scare Falstaff into humility and, ultimately, end up with an understanding for each other.
While the entire cast was fantastic and every performer brought something unique and beautiful to the stage, my personal favorites were Ford, Dame Quickly (Kayla Brotherton), and Falstaff himself. Richard Zeller, a guest performer at UNCG who has earned high acclaim for roles like Marcello in “La Bohème”’ at the Met and Coroebus in “Les Troyens,” was absolutely the perfect choice for Falstaff. Zeller dominated the stage with his strong and refined voice as well as his dynamic presence.
Christian Blackburn excelled as Ford, his performance entrancing to watch. Blackburn’s powerful voice matched with his expressionate acting made him stand out amongst his cast. Kayla Brotherton as Dame Quickly served as the comedic middle-man in communications between Falstaff and Alice. Her performance was spectacular and I enjoyed every moment she was on stage. Acknowledgements to Leanna Crenshaw as Nannetta, Ian DeSmit as Fenton, Tamara Bailey as Meg, and Victoria Erickson as Alice as well, who all showcased wonderful ability and command of the stage.
The crew also did an amazing job on this production. The set design was led by Randall McMullen. The large yet simple settings were a perfect fit for this show, allowing for the characters to move around freely, while still interacting with their environment. When the curtain rose on the final part in Act 3 to reveal a massive tree adorned with lights, I was absolutely stunned. It served as the perfect visual for the show to end on.
The wardrobe of the show, designed by Deborah Bell, specifically shined during this production. Each outfit truly fit the character and really made each person stand out. I specifically loved the glasses with the large, loose nose that Ford wore in disguise; the crowd got a laugh out of those. The different mystical costumes in the final scene made it feel like I was watching a magical circus come to life. Last, but certainly not least, my compliments to the orchestra led by Peter Perret who expertly accompanied each performer without error.
Overall, this was a fantastic show and one that cast and crew alike should be proud to have put on.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment