The Girl in the Train
Music by Leo Fall
Libretto by Vikto Leon
English translation by Hersh Glagov & Gerald Frantzen
Produced by Chicago Folks Operetta
Directed by Elizabeth Margolius
Conducted by Anthony Barrese
Choreographer Todd Rhoades
At the Madison Street Theatre, Oak Park
Stunning, cute operetta well sung and staged with a fabulous score featuring warm waltzes
1908 Leo Fall (1873 – 1925) was a forgotten yet extremely celebrated composer of operettas whose works are now being produced this season by the creatives from the Chicago Folks Operetta. Following up their major hit Madame Pompadour from this past July, we are enchanted and impressed with everything about Leo Fall’s The Girl in the Train. This operetta is in English, it is one of the most uniquely staged operettas I’ve seen yet by the creatives from Chicago Folks Operetta. They have taken the small stage at the Madison Street Theatre in Oak Park, known for bad sound, and built a two level set that works to house both the 20 piece orchestra and serve the story and forcing the singers to use mics. The effect was to produce an enchanting operetta with a brusque (for 1908) and rich libretto by Vikto Leon, who wrote The Merry Widow. Filled with the wit and humor in the finest Viennese operetta genre, The Girl in the Train was a hit in London in 1909 and in America in 1910.
The show opens with a courtroom filled with three judges, a public chorus, the plaintiff and the defendant –the charge, adultery. Jana van Lysseweghe ( Alison Kelly) accuses her husband Karel (Nick Pulikowski) because he shared his two bed sleeper compartment on a train to Amsterdam with an unmarried woman, Gonda (Caroline Wright)- a most scandalous event. Convicted and forced to divorce, Karel launches the screwball comic events unfold in classic, yet brusque operetta form.This wonderfully sung show, especially from Alison Kelly, Caroline Wright, and Nick Pulikowski, was enhanced with the breathtaking score beautifully performed by Anthony Barrese’s 20 piece orchestra. The clever staging by director Elizabeth Margolius, especially her movement by the chorus that underscored and commented the action of the show, was most enjoyable. Waltzes highlight Fall’s moving score, from the clever courtroom scene set to music “Trial by Jury,” to the”Sleeping Car” waltz to the “Kind, Frau” waltz, to a slow waltz, we become enchanted with the lush and sweeping melodies and inherent romanticism of waltz music. The diverse score was refreshing to the ears.
Add the cute story with terrific humor, especially from Matt Dyson as the train conductor and the two and half hour operetta is a treat of the first class. As wonderful as the cast sung and the actors produced humor and wit, The Girl in the Train owes its wonder to the lush, melodic, romantic, and utterly charming music by a forgotten genius – Leo Fall. He is the finest forgotten composer of the 2oth Century! This is one of the finest operetta’s yet by Chicago Folks Operetta and one of the finest stage shows in Chicago in 2015. If you have ever wondered about seeing an operetta (other than a Gilbert & Sullivan), then get to Madison Street soon since it is a short run.The Girl in the Train is memorizing, tuneful, superbly sung, and loads of fun. You’ll leave the theatre entertained and quite impressed. When will the sponsors help fund the Chicago Folks Operetta? See The Girl in the Train to experience the quality that can be staged on a low budget! Imagine if these creatives had a venue of their own, what they can produce? They are translating and mounting of Viennese and Berlin operetta in English for our enjoyment. See The Girl in the Train, it is fabulous! Remember, operettas are whimsical, light and fun.