heroines-sonoma-state-university-1HEROINES
Concept & Music Direction by Lynne Morrow
Concept, Script, Stage Direction, & Choreography by Jane Erwin Hammett

Sonoma State University Department of Theatre Arts & Dance
Evert. B Person Theatre

RUN: February 5-15, 2015
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

February 6, 2015

Heroines is a satirical exploration of the veiled misogyny inherent in many light opera plots. Gathering women from Gilbert & Sullivan, Franz Lehar, Noel Coward, and others in a delightful crossover operetta, the characters journey toward a greater understanding of their roles as women in society.

Jenny (Anna Leach) is drawn from The Threepenny Opera, by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, during a moment of crucial decision. She leads the way of discovery while coming to grips with her past. The German play opened in 1928 in the heart of Berlin, an instant success, until Brecht and Weill had to flee the country in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power. She represents the lowest a woman can fall, yet keeps fighting to survive, offering the memorable song “Pirate Jenny”.

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Canela Fullbright McCoubrey as Patience brought a pure, sweet soprano to the role. Emily Thomason as Rose was charming in her demeanor, although her voice was rather soft. Her comedic foil Margaret (Sarah Maxon) was brilliant. Maxon has the perfect expressive acting style for the role of a bride gone mad by being jilted on her wedding day; she would be a stunning Miss Havisham. Maxon was truly mesmerizing in her dedication to embodying Margaret. Equally impressive was Allison Spencer as Eurydice; she owned the stage, projecting well and taking the audience by storm. Her character is from Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenback & Ludovic Halévy. Premiering in 1858, it was originally considered offensive by critics for changing the original Greek myth so carelessly, incorporating Roman elements and altering Eurydice from a blushing bride killed at her wedding to a strong woman who knew what she wanted and took it. Heroines picks up the mantle, and while I enjoyed the entire sequence, the Classicist in me winced at the lack of differentiation between Tartarus, Hades’ Palace, the Fields of Punishment, the Asphodel Meadows, Elysium, and the Isles of the Blessed.

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Costume design (Jessica Dyble) was simple and effective to clarify characters and times, with a dash of Steampunk inspiration for The Threepenny Opera. Sets (Travis O Deck) featured fractured golden frames—an observant commentary on the state of the women as they began their odyssey.

Heroines is reminiscent of William Makepeace Thackeray’s sharp tongued, yet entertaining, The Book of Snobs, complete with rants about eating peas with a knife, thanks to a witty script from Jane Erwin Hammett. Memorable musical numbers include “Cheerily carols the lark” with Sarah Maxon, originally from Ruddygore, and “Death to the invader”, from Princess Ida.

If you relish comic opera, don’t miss this delightful mashup of characters as they discover what it is to be heroines.