Premiering in 1791, the grand opera “The Magic Flute” has had centuries to be translated, adapted and performed time and time again. Sonoma State University Theater Arts and Dance Department leapt out of those masses with their colorful rendition for the department’s Spring production.
“Into the Woods,” the 30-year-old musical connecting the adventurous, action packed, Grimm Brother’s tales to haunting music, had the campus skipping and humming all the way to grandma’s house after the department’s production last spring. If the thought of the singing being hard to top crossed your mind, “The Magic Flute” blows it out of the water.
For the unaware, “The Magic Flute” is a love story set and written to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Trials of love, tests of loyalty and the surprise comeback of a giant serpent aid Prince Tamino, played by James Leng, and his sidekick Papageno, portrayed by Malik-Charles Wade I, on a classical journey. Themes of family values and trust ring throughout this play.
The efforts of the design team are impossible to go unnoticed, beginning with set design. Senior Kristopher East’s forest drop design, used in both acts, transcended the audience into the visions of Henry David Thoreau and the joy freshly bloomed umbrellas can bring. Costume designer Samantha Summerfield is no stranger to glitter and patterns dressing the royalty and servers. In particular, the costumes of the playful spirits, portrayed by Kyra Leetz, Meghan Muller and Alexis Zent, features whimsical, pointed hats embroidered in the most reflective of jewels, patterned, gaucho-cut pants which dance as they skip and contrasting elastic body suits to tie it together. Mood lighting is taken to a new levels thanks to light designer and senior Lauren Eckis. Eckis’ precision with time shines in act two during part the queen’s song where use of strobe lighting to intensify the presence of thunder shook the crowd. Between scenes and in between songs spotlights are constantly changing, growing brighter and dimming, requiring careful, watchful eyes.
Part-student, part-professional, the orchestra played Mozart in fine tune as its symbiotic relationship with the actors and actresses unfolded in front of the crowd. At times, the singers could be lost in the acoustics of the instruments, but the performers were quick to recognize volume levels and adjusted their voices accordingly. And for many, lyrics in opera can sound meshed against drawn out notes, a problem solved by set design by displaying the lyrics above the stage.
Jamelia Brown, portraying princess Pamina, widened eyes, lured audience members from their chairs and earned a standing ovation post-performance. Personally, set a new bar for every other musical seen after this, Brown held some of the highest of notes in the show the same way she carried herself in her hot pink and pink petal-colored robes: effortlessly. Supporting each other, Leng, portraying Prince Tamino, and Brown harmoniously mesh singing in the highest of keys, giving the Queen, portrayed by Sarah Phelan, some friendly competition. Malik-Charles Wade 1, portraying Papageno, and Kimberly Colisch, portraying Papagena, will have you laughing, crying, and in love with them just as quick as they fall into with each other.
Experience the power of Papageno’s magic bells, detailed costumes and rise of the lethal serpent first hand at 7:30 p.m. in the Evert B. Person Theatre between Feb. 23-25 and March 2-4. A matinee show can be caught on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. A piano-only performance can be seen on March 1 at 10 a.m; and the productions last night on March 5 at 5 p.m.