Ketchikan Community Chorus & Orchestra Adapts Die Fledermaus
for Home-Run Fun as "Revenge of the Bat"
by Sharon Lint
March 19, 2005
Specifically, that pinnacle of operettas set in 1850 Vienna, "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss, Jr. It's a production with a lineup of practical jokes, trickery, slapstick humor, disguises and more than a splash of alcohol - especially that most famous of bubblies - champagne.
Photograph by Carl Thompson
"This show is actually what got me into opera. . . I was in a German class and they were doing Fledermaus that semester . . . so they invited the German class . . . and so the next semester, I was in opera workshop and the semester after that, I was a music major."
Her energetic, imaginative
updating of the story to modern-day Ketchikan was even more hilarious
than the original madcap composition and is sure to be a home
run in anyone's opinion. She thought of adapting the setting
to the city of Ketchikan because she was so severely restricted
by a shoestring budget. "There was no way we could stage
an eighteenth century piece . . . so one day I got the idea of
updating it and thought, 'this could work!' . . ."
The plot is both simple and complex. Based on the age-old theme of revenge, it revolves on an elaborate conspiracy conceived by Dr. Falke (Stephen Kinney) to repay Eisenstein (Alan Bailey) for a practical joke. It seems Eisenstein had committed the error of abandoning an inebriated Falke at the base of Nathan Jackson's Eagle Totem in the center of town after a costume party. Falke had woken after a night of revelry - still dressed in his bat costume from the night before - drunk, hung-over, bat-butt in the air, and being photographed by amused tourists.
The operetta begins the triple play of three acts in the Eisenstein's living room in Ketchikan. Eisenstein is about to surrender as ordered by the Courts for committing a minor offense and is readying himself to leave for the jail to serve his short sentence. Falke begins his revenge by telling Eisenstein of a New Year's ball on Prince Orlofsky's (Kristina Hale) yacht, moored in Bar Harbor. He convinces Eisenstein to attend the party in cognito as a Marquis before surrendering himself for his sentence.
Falke's plan involves exposing
Eisenstein's womanizing ways to his wife, Rosalinda (Joann Flora)
who is also at the ball in the guise of a masked Hungarian Countess.
Along the way, Eisenstein discovers that Rosalinda is having
an affair with a singer named Alfred (Michael Fitzgerald), runs
into his chambermaid Adele (Lallette Kistler), who has borrowed
one of Rosalinda's dresses to attend the ball, and Adele's sister,
Sally, an aspiring actress (Allyson Sebcioglu), and becomes drinking
buddies with Frank (John "Jack" Shea), the prison warden
who was supposed to take Eisenstein to jail, but instead took
Alfred, who is now incarcerated unjustly, being supervised by
the merry, drunken jailer, Frosch (Gus Hennessy), and is screaming
for Eisenstein's bumbling lawyer, Mr. Blind (A. Fred Miller).
Ultimately, all ends well. Falke's revenge is revealed, everyone
has a glass of champagne, a toast, and a good laugh at Eisenstein's
Both the acting and the singing were Grand Slams. "I couldn't have asked for a better cast," Kistler said of her handpicked actors.
Top honors go to Joann Flora's Rosalinda and Lallette Kistler's Bubbly Adele. Kistler was amazing in her ability to make the frequent musical ha-ha-has of laughter in one score seem perfectly natural.
However, Flora's extraordinary voice dominated the stage, and her portrayal of the hypocritical wife was only excelled by her performance as the mysterious Hungarian Countess. Her full, rich pitch never lost its magnificence even in the highest notes. Her animated movements and facial expressions during the first act when singing, "Oh, goodness me, what misery . . ." bunted giggles continuously throughout the entire song.
Alan Bailey's Eisenstein was a close second. His humorous character interpretation was a definite circus catch and his ability to perform such a demanding role was due mostly to his amazing enthusiasm and effort. Kistler said that without question Alan made the most progress during rehearsals.
"He's never been a singer. He only started singing maybe five years ago . . . he never read a note in his life, totally sung by ear . . . but he's really good at it!" Kistler enthused. "He's come so far. It's awesome."
The double play of Michael Fitzgerald's Alfred and Stephen Kinney's Falke characters added so much to the production. They both did a good job of capturing their characters' essence; the arrogance of the egomaniacal tenor Alfred and the elegant, splendid Dr. Falke.
Jack Shea, as always, was brilliant as Frank, the warden of the local hoosegow turned party animal. His portrayal was an Uncle Charlie-like curve ball, starting as a penitentiary hardass and then swiftly transforming to drunken stumbling comedian in less than one act. He made it look effortless, but he confessed learning his part in the Bat wasn't as easy as it looked on stage. "It was hard to learn, for me. . . [but] great, great fun," Shea said afterward.
Stealing all bases, though, was Frosch, the drunken jailer played by Gus Hennessy. His ad-lib antics were priceless. Especially humorous was the "snake bite" scene in the third act. Whether in the spotlight or simply weaving and bobbing on his feet in the background, he excelled at Bat.
"I enjoyed [playing Frosch] very, very much. It was a lot of fun," Hennessy said. He also said he's learned a lot working on the Bat. "I didn't realize before how much work goes into it . . . for the people that are onstage . . . it's cathartic for the audience to laugh and associate with the actor onstage but to actually go up there and really purge emotionally, it's pretty neat. It's a neat feeling. Almost like how you feel after a good workout but emotionally and physically."
He also loved being able to help out with the chorus and most especially, with props. "It was all stuff that had been following me around in my closet for years and years," he said. When they needed a tuxedo or an ascot, he had one. "I bought the ascot at the store twenty years ago. . . everything serves a purpose now on stage. You never know when it's going to come in handy."
And speaking of things that come in handy onstage, A. Fred Miller surpassed himself as Mr. Blind, taking the brunt of all the lawyer jokes with good-natured humor. And although Prince Orlofsky is traditionally played by a male contralto, Kristina Hale's soprano was a great pinch hitter for the part and excelled at depicting the bored royal tourist. Allyson Sebcioglu's Sally was refreshing and full of delight. Likewise, a green light should go to the well-known Chris Wilhelm as Ivan, Orlofsky's Major-Domo. Finally, every member of the chorus and cast shined in their various supporting roles.
Conductor Roger Nelson led the orchestra in the lively score. From the moment the lights dim and the strains of Strauss' waltzy music floats through the air toward the audience, one knows a first-rate orchestra is in a master's hands. The rapid changes in speed common in Viennese music were handled with mastery both by the conductor and the talented musicians, some of whom came from other Alaska cities such as Prince of Wales, Juneau and Anchorage.
Overall, Ketchikan Community Chorus & Orchestra's production of "Revenge of the Bat" is as delightfully effervescent as the champagne in the Third Act, and not one to be missed.
The last performance of "Revenge of the Bat" is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight, Saturday, March 19 at Ketchikan High School auditorium. If you haven't gotten tickets yet, do so quickly. For more information, contact the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council or get your ticket at the door. You won't be sorry.
Don't take them out to the ballgame. Take them out to "The Bat."
Contact Sharon at sharon(AT)sitnews.us
Sharon Lint ©2005