Cloclo review Chicago Reader July 2009

Chicago Folks Operetta Soprano Alison Kelly and her husband, tenor Gerald Frantzen, founded CFO in 2006, upon coming home to the midwest after a decade of New York-based professional travel. During a long stint in Germany, they fell in love with the operetta genre, which Kelly defines as about 75 percent singing, 25 percent talk.

Kelly and Frantzen specialize in new translations (by themselves and local linguist Hersh Glagov) of rarely seen German-language works dating from about 1880 to 1920. Their current production of Franz Lehár’s Cloclo uses musicians from the  Civic Orchestra and a production team headed by staff from Lyric Opera and COT—all working “for very little money,” Kelly says. Still, Cloclo’s $25,000 budget is their biggest so far, and the production’s running in their largest theater yet. A day before the opening last week, she noted that “in this economy, that’s a little scary. We just hope to God people come.”

If they do, they’re in for a treat. The show is a scrupulously produced, three-and-a-quarter-hour hoot. Written by Lehár nearly 20 years after his success with The Merry Widow and infused with a twinkling, surprisingly diverse score, it’s a Sex and the City for Paris in the 20s—and Cloclo (Roosevelt University undergrad Amanda Horvath) is the Carrie Bradshaw of the Folies Bergere, complete with the mouthy attitude and drop-dead wardrobe. The libretto and lyrics—salted with references to Bernie Madoff and AIG—have the merciless cynicism of true farce, as does August Tye’s witty choreography. E. Loren Meeker directs an excellent cast that includes Frantzen as Cloclo’s true love and Kelly as her very funny maid.

Cloclo Review Time Out Magazine July 2009

Cloclo Moustache punches police officers, runs from the law and causes general havoc in the lives of her potential suitors—yet nothing can throw a cog in the daredevil exploits of this Folies Bergère dancer, Franz Lehár’s frivolous and foolhardy Parisian creation.

Cloclo, the last truly comic operetta by the Austrian composer of The Merry Widow, receives its U.S. premiere from the Chicago Folks Operetta, which features some of the area’s finest opera singers, musicians and dancers. A number of staff members from the Lyric Opera of Chicago—including the excellent choreographer and ballet mistress August Tye—have been drafted to pump up an imaginative and eloquent take on this 80-year-old slice of vaudevillian buffoonery. The new English translation fittingly focuses on big laughs as the small orchestra revives Lehár’s original score of jazz and tango rhythms, jostling alongside charming waltzes and his interpretations of common music-hall ditties of the 1920s.

Delve deeper into Lehár’s slapstick and pop in early to hear Michael Miller, one of the leading operetta scholars and president of the L.A.-based Operetta Foundation, giving pre-performance lectures on Thursday 16 and Friday 17. Since 2006, Gerald Frantzen and Alison Kelly, the husband-and-wife duo behind the CFO, have done a spectacular job of introducing 20th-century Viennese operettas to American audiences. They’re also savvy schedulers, taking a cue from Hollywood: Nothing goes down in summer like a romantic comedy.

Time Out Chicago / Issue 229 : Jul 16–22, 2009