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The Fairy Queen is a baroque opera written by Henry Purcell in 1692 as an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream.  On November 5th, in the newly restored Studebaker Theater, the Chicago Opera Theater produced their reimagined version of the opera in collaboration with Culture Clash. The show is set in present day Las Vegas at a nightclub known as Club FQ or Club Fairy Queen, giving a modern perspective on a very traditional and old fashioned show.


Three couples, in various phases of their relationships, arrive at the club ready to enjoy their weekend in Vegas; Tanya and Rob to celebrate a birthday, Lysander and Herman to celebrate a marriage and Demetrius and Helena to try and rekindle their romance. After Tanya and Ron get in a big argument over Ron’s wandering eyes (and more) their first night in the club, Puck, the club owner, steps in with a special love potion that is sure to solve all of their problems. Of course, nothing from here out goes as planned and chaos ensues.


Now imagine that story set to baroque music by the Haymarket Opera Company - complete with a harpsichord and other period instruments - under the direction of Jory Vinikour. This should be an interesting way to make opera more accessible to a new audience but this strong juxtaposition, combined with overly sexualized characters who are such strong stereotypes it at times feels insulting and pacing that was awkwardly slow, it overall falls short of a production that will do much to attract any new audiences.


The show, like its muse, is a comedy and while there are some comedic moments that hit the right moment and tone, garnering laughs from the theater, there are many more that felt dragged out or had poor timing. The show has a run time of over 2 hours with a 20 minute intermission but the pacing of the performance makes that feel much longer. In a possible tribute to the masque style of the original opera, there tends to be significant time where characters who are not speaking are standing still on the stage, as if waiting for their next move, but that ended up detracting from the momentum of the performance.


The lyrics are captioned for the audience which is helpful, but they are still quite confusing. If you are familiar with the story of Midsummer Night's Dream, it will be easy to follow along despite that. The stage and lighting design were fitting to set the scene of this Vegas club and the costumes completed that package visually. The cast overall was eclectic and it was refreshing to see good diversity on stage. Tanya, played by Kim Jones, was a saving grace of the show. Her singing was beautiful and definitely made her a stand out member of the cast.  As the cast performed without microphones, there were times when it was difficult to hear the dialog but most of them had excellent projection when it was time to sing.


On the whole, this reimagined telling of The Fairy Queen missed the mark. It often felt like it was trying too hard to be hip and relevant which took away from the performance. There was great intent in this creative approach to an adaptation and with some softening of the delivery, and improvements on the pacing it could become a unique and interesting opera. There will be two more performances of the show coming up in the next week so get your tickets here to see for yourself - https://www.chicagooperatheater.org/the-season/fairy-queen. 


Published in Theatre in Review



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