An Entanglement of Theater and Opera

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Photo By: Lorna Kelso

Bursting onto the stage in a wildly wonderful dance of musical theater, the opening night of Street Scene, an American Opera filled Jacksonville University’s Swisher Theater nearly to the brim. On Friday, April 5, the audience buzzed as parents, friends and theater goers eagerly anticipated the less frequently performed but effectively moving melodic entanglement of theater and American Opera.

“I enjoyed it,” said Siera Patrick, a JU sophomore. “I’ve never been to an opera before and one of my friends was actually in the play, so, we were really excited to see him.”

Street Scene, an American Opera, was delivered to the awestruck audience in a way that was sure to capture their imaginations and transport them onto a Lower East Side, New York City street in the midst of the heat and humanity of 1946.

The play begins the same way it ends, a statement in itself, with a few women opening up the floor to gossip with the general words “ain’t it awful. the heat?” despite the heart-wrenching and tear-jerking events in between.

The Jacksonville University Orchestra lead the audience on an emotional adventure, molding the feelings with the melodies and moods of their music as the actors performed on stage. At the end of the show, a few excited musicians waggled their bows and earned an applause of their own.

“The dancing to Moon-Faced, Starry-Eyed, was my favorite part,” said sophomore Mya Adjamah, “I wanted to dance with them.”

With a stunning set that was painted in the bright yet rugged likeness of a multistory building with lilacs near the doorstep, an audience member could forget the dark drapes and carpets surrounding them and fall into the drama before them.

“The play was really good. This was my first time at an opera and my brother [L. Matthew Cox] was in the play, he was Mr. Sankey, who was with the married woman,” said Hilary Cox, a sophomore, “I was sad when he got shot but he did a great job.”

Due to the clever manipulation of lighting, including the swarming of colors that mirrored a slow but vibrant sunrise, the range of emotions felt by the players and onlookers where enhanced onstage, and the light faded according to the suggested sun in the show.

All in all, the happenings on this NYC street were well received. The age range of actors enriched the degree of realism that was adopted for this production and showcased the talents of young actors in the Jacksonville community. The jazzy, smooth waves of the music and high energy dancing helped balance the audience for the brewing tragedy and, eventually, it’s long shadow over the street in the end.

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