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Reviews

Tales From the Manhattan Woods

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Presented by Writer's Stage, Opera New York, and William Holt at the Wings Theatre, 154 Christopher St., NYC, Nov. 20-Jan. 17.

Don't let the title fool you. This is Johann Strauss' effervescent operetta "Die Fledermaus" in a translation that sets the action in the Trump Tower/Tribeca party-scene present, though it was so lacking in production values that it may as well take place in its usual setting of 19th-century Vienna.

Nonetheless, "Fledermaus" it is, and decently sung to boot. In Frederick Stroppel's sometimes amusing, occasionally coarse translation, there are references to faxes, Johnny Cochran, and the Gap, but the music is performed straight. The basic plot remains the same: A rakish Eisenstein, here a real-estate magnate, about to serve a short prison sentence, skips jail and goes to a masquerade ball where he unknowingly woos his (masked) wife under the mischievous contrivance of a friend on whom he recently played a prank himself.

In one of three casts, Elena Heimur as the patrician Rosalinda sounded curiously commonplace in her dialogue, but demonstrated solid vocal technique and sang a terrific "Czardas." Jeffrey Reynolds, Melanie Melcher, Kyle Bradford, and David Garry excelled in both acting and singing departments, while Lindsey Jager and Brian Costello were fine in nonsinging roles. Walter Hartman and Frances Jones rounded out an above-average cast.

Judith Fredricks (assisted by Lorene Phillips) directed competently (with Fredricks playing a kinky "Prince" Orlofsky), though a sharper hand could have made the updating more delicious, rather as Christopher Alden has done in his Offenbach revivals for the L'Opéra Français of New York.

Tom Claypool's setting made the most of a limited budget. But most of the modernizing fell to Brad Scoggins and Michele Cuccia's "costume concept." Stephen Phebus proved a deft one-man orchestra on piano.

Yet if this "Tales" was ultimately not the most bubbly of champagnes, there was more than enough fizz to provide a pleasurable evening.

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