Passion at Theo Ubique

 

Music and Lyrics by Stephan Sondheimtheo ubique

Book by James Lapine

Directed by Fred Anzevino

Music Director Kory Danielson

Produced by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

At the No Exit Cafe, Chicago

“To die loved is to have lived.” – Fosca from Passion

Stylized and romantic  love triangle consumes Sondheim’s artful chamber operetta.

Utilizing an exquisite set (designed by Adam Veness) and featuring an “A” list of non-Equity perfumers, director Fred Anzevino has done it again! His production of Stephan Sondheim’s richly romantic chamber operetta, Passion,  is an event to cherish and admire. Anzevino found three superb actor-singers to present Sondheim’s hauntingly wonderful romantic operetta: Colette Todd, Peter Oyloe and Danni Smith.

Theo Ubique - Passion-1 Oyloe_Todd

The result is exquisite chamber piece filled with natural rhapsodic, lush and haunting melodies sung expertly. This intimate show has an intelligent book by James Lapine based on the French film directed by Ettore Scole. Passion won three 1994 Tony Awards including Best Musical. It is a memorable haunting look at love, obsession and, of course, passion.

Theo Ubique - Passion-2 Oyloe_Smith

Set in the 1860’s Italy at a military encampment and dressed in authentic uniforms and period perfect women’s dresses (designed by Bill Morey), Passion is about a young, handsome Captain, Giorgio (Peter Oyloe) who  seems to know what love and passion are as he has a torrid affair going with Clara (Colette Todd), a married woman. We see the two singing a duet in bed;  “Happines” IS AN ode to their sexual pleasure. Giorgio’s transfer to a rural mountain post leads to several love letters exchanges in song between Clara and Giorgio. Oyloe and Todd are good looking lovers whose wonderful voices fill the small stage with positive, sensual tones.

Surround by supporting members filled with military machismo, led by John Leen as the Colonel with Peter Vamvakas as the military doctor, the group sings harmonies and provides the military flavor with cadence marches.  Captain Giorgio doesn’t fit into the military mode since he neither drinks nor gambles. Giorgio is a nature loving idealist and proper gentleman who is more a pure romantic than a military man. When he meets the sickly, plain Fosca (Danni Smith), the Colonel’s cousin, Fosca instantly falls in love with the dashing, polite and proper officer.

Theo Ubique - Passion-5 Smith_Oyloe

 Passion could be renamed “Obsession” since Fosca persistently demands love as she unabashedly throws herself at the young Captain. Fosca manipulates Giorgio using her frailty and sickness as tools to appeal to his chivalry.. He senses her obsession and attempts to free himself from her grips but Doctor Tambouri  maneuvers Giorgi toward Fosca in an attempt to extend her life by giving her a reason to live. The dcotor understands the redemptive power of love. Fosca comes across a nasty, ugly negative woman without feelings.

As act two opens, we see a flashback that shows Fosca’s ill-fated marriage to Count Ludovic (Sean Knight) whose only interest in Fosca was her dowry. Penniless and scared by rejection, Fosca escapes into books and her illness as the Colonel provides her housing. Could Giorgio be her last change at love?

 Giorgio tries to spend time with Clara while Fosca tries to interfere with Giorgio’s affair. Eventually Giorgio learns that Clara’s love isn’t true since she’ll not leave her husband and child to be with him. Fosca’s intense love is true and unconditional. And that passionate love is what Giorgio realizes is what he really wants.

 This romantic journey is filled with Sondheim’s marvelous, almost hypnotic, lush melodies sung wonderfully mostly in duets with stirring solos that depict the wide pain and ecstasy of the yearning for love and the struggle of romantic interludes. Colette Todd’s rich soprano voice is a wonder to hear and Peter Oyloe combines intensity with his strong voice to make Giorgio a charismatic and empathic character. Danni Smith gave Fosca a depth and painful presence that eventually explodes into a chilling obsession that becomes hypnotic  At first we detest Fosca, but we gradually realize that she understands that to love (unconditionally) is to be alive. We grow to admire her pure passion. We quietly hope she wins Giorgio’s affection. Giorgio learns that love isn’t easy as he matures to discover the nature of love that Fosca possesses. The extremely subtle acting underscores the rich duets that Oyloe and Smith achieve. You’d me hard pressed to see finer acting to go with the wonderful singing from Oyloe and Smith. You see their angst, their pain., and, eventually their deep-seated love that produces their true ‘passion!’

This journey of discovery has such a beautiful score, on such romantic words, sung with the emotional charged cast, making Sondheim’s Passion a stunning art piece. Passion is a winning chamber operetta. Romantics, music lovers and the passionate will rejoice in this rapturously haunting music gem. Colette Todd, Peter Oyloe and Danni Smith should be proud of their performances. Seldom do you see such fervor in a musical. Their Passion becomes our passion. Kudos to Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre.for having the hutzpah to mount an operetta. 

 Highly Recommended

 Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: March 10, 2014

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Passion page at theatrinchicago.com

At No Exite Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL, call 800-595-4849, www.theo-u.com, tickets $34 – $39 with optional dinner for $25 each, Thursdays at 7:30 pm,Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through April 27, 2014