We had been promised guys posing as nuns, astroturf, 2,500 pieces of fake fruit, a moving stage, and circus performers. Did LoftOpera‘s production of Le Comte Ory let us down on any front? Be assured it did not.
At last night’s 8:00 pm show, at the cavernous, rag-tag home of circus school The Muse, the scene was abuzz: joyful staff greeted attendees with programs as if they were old friends, patrons young and not-so-young milled around inside and out with red solo cups, and plastic chandeliers suspended from the infinitely-high ceiling glittered in the sunset. Eventually, the crowd settled around the big astroturf-covered platform in the center of the room where most of the show would go down.
But the action started even before the 30-piece orchestra warmed up, and came in the form of a pair of ripped nuns doing aerial silks to the strains of Prince’s “Kiss.” The crowd was already going wild, and the stunt set the tone perfectly for the rest of the evening: lovable scamp Count Ory (played by the Icelandic tenor Thorsteinn H. Árbjörnsson) came out wearing a hot pink suit, matching pink mustache, and bright red eyeglasses that, all together, made for a delightful Elton John-Elvis hybrid aesthetic; a kneeling line of khaki-clad damsels in distress suggestively ate bananas in unison as they pined for love; and Ory’s OCD tutor (the booming bass Jeff Beruan) fastidiously used hand sanitizer and broke a sweat looking for a place to plug his MacBook in. (One could say that LoftOpera leveraged the tendency of operas from this era to include only “light” stage direction to their fullest, funkiest advantage.)
One standout performer was Ory’s page Isolier, played by the mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Pojanowski. This role involves a) dressing like a man, and b) playing Ory’s foil again and again as the plot thickens—both of which Pojanowski, with her hair-hiding pompadour and expressive face, did to solid comedic effect. Plus her rich and velvety voice gave some listeners actual spine tinglies.
But it’s really not fair to play favorites here, as the entire cast was good, and cohesive, and definitely in it to win it. They enthusiastically pulled off a seamless blend of cheeky sexiness (in the second act’s famous love triangle, all three participants eventually strip to their undies—Ory’s are hot pink, of course—and progress into Rocky Horror levels of stage intimacy) and good clean fun (the villagers are shocked to find that their “mystic hermit” is in fact Count Ory himself—which he reveals simply by casting off his red eyeglasses).
It was no wonder the crowd—a mix of Bushwick locals, intrepid gray heads, and well-dressed yuppies—responded unanimously when the cross-dressing nuns did the can-can, and that many stood up to applaud as soon as the lights went down: at the risk of sounding trite, it’s fair to say that LoftOpera offered something for everyone last night. Maybe the company’s co-founder Brianna Maury said it best when she introduced the show: “Welcome to the family.”