Encore Michigan

Opera Modo brings Broadway to ‘Orpheus’

Review May 25, 2019 David Kiley

DETROIT, Mich.–When opera gets silly, it can be most enjoyable in good hands. And Orpheus in the Underworld, produced by Opera Modo this weekend, is definitely in good hands.

The opera is a lampoon of the ancient legend by Virgil of Orpheus and Eurydice.

In the original story, Orpheus (Brad Lieto) and Eurydice are married, but it is a marriage made somewhere short of heaven. Orpheus is given a lyre to play in the original story, but here it is an accordion. Eurydice (Anna Valcour) is tempted, dies and descends into hell. He ultimately decides to go to Hades himself to see his wife where among other things she has, in this version, had sex with a giant fly. Yes. Seriously.

In this version, Opera Modo has layered on the silly by portraying all the various Gods in the story–Apollo, Jupiter, Pluto, Mercury, Venus, Juno, Mars, Cupid, –as familiar characters from Broadway shows. Jupiter ( Ben King Quayle) is portrayed by Moses from Moses The Musical. Pluto (Braun Oldenkamp) is played by Billy Flynn from Chicago. Eurydice is portrayed first as Dorothy from Wizard of Oz and then Roxie from Chicago. Mercury (Katie Linzmaier) is portrayed as Hedwig from Angry Inch fame. Venus is portrayed by Lucy The Slut from Avenue Q, complete with her puppet. Juno (Calebria Webb) is portrayed by Mary Poppins. “Public Opinion” is represented by Dolly, replete with long red dress and head-piece, performed by Elizabeth Mitchell.

It is all the costumed characters that give the show an over-the –top feel, especially in an orgy scene where we see Annie from Annie Get Your Gun doing the deed with Hamilton from Hamilton, and Annie is climbing the legs the Phantom I think. Ew. But visually hilarious. There is also a sub-story going on between the cast of Xanadu and cast of Cats.

With all the wackiness, don’t think that the company mailed in the singing. Far from it.  Anna Valcour has a beautiful soprano voice, and rocks her Roxie Hart. Madeleine Gotschlich is very funny and has great stage presence as Diana, in her Annie Get Your Gun outfit, and he has a soaring soprano voice and is justifiably featured in several scenes. Christina Swanson as Venus, too, has great presence and projection and nails the comedic aspect of her role.

This comic operetta is great stuff and in the raw wide open spqce of Jam handy in Detroit, one has the feeling of the Chorus at Michigan Opera Theatre cooking up this tasty show in the basement for opera patrons in the know.

Opera Modo has wonderfully established itself as a distinct and alternative experience in Detroit to MOT. The Jam handy space is friendly and interesting, and there isn’t a fur cape to be seen anywhere. If it has a weakness as a space it is getting a good view. Opera Modo has tried to offset the issue with some platforms to stagger the height of the seating, and  there is a wooden elevated ramp where some of the action takes place.

Given the number of performances at Jam Handy, we’d like to see the owners of the space invest in some flexible, module-style staging platforms for visiting companies to use.

Unfortunately, Orpheus  in the Underworld had a short run, so word of mouth won’t help ticket sales. But they will be back in the Fall, and will no doubt continue to impress us.