Music ReviewsMUST SEEOperaREVIEWSTom Williams

The Cousin from Nowhere 2016

The Cousin from Nowhere 2016

An Operetta in 3 Acts

Music by Eduard Kunneke

Libretto by Hermann Haller & Rideamus (Fritz Oliven)

Adapted from a comedy by Max Kempner-Hochstadt

Translated by Gerald Frantzen & Hersh Glagov

Conducted byAnthony Barrese

Stage Direction by Elizabeth Margolius

Choreographed by Todd Rhoades

Produced by Chicago  Folks Operetta

At Stage 773, Chicago

Funny, melodic, and wonderfully sung 1921 operetta a summer treat!

When I first saw Chicago Folks Operetta’s 2012 production of Eduard Kunneke’s The Cousin  from Nowhere I instantly fell in love with this company’s product. Their use of a full orchestra (here with 22 members), terrific sets, and a terrific cast of singer/actors make their productions first class. Their 2016 production is one of the best shows of 2016!


Eduard Kunnekes’s fabulous modern German operetta, in a rhyming translation into English by Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov, is a fun time. The music by Eduard  Kunneke is part traditional opera, part vaudeville, and part early Broadway musical with Viennese operetta style influences. The score is light and melodious featuring the romantic Viennese counterpart. The score has some tango melodies as well as cute, playful ditties with hints to Gilbert & Sullivan.

The story of The Cousin from Nowhere is a folksy one, with only eight players, about a small town girl turning eighteen who is lovestruck since eleven by Roderich, who has disappeared from Germany for seven years. Julia (Heather Youngquist) is being controlled by her step adopted parents Wimpel (Rose Guccione from the 2012 production) and Jesse (James Judd) who want to get rich from Julia’s marriage. When August (Nicholas Pulikowski) arrives in the village, Julia and everyone believes  he is only a poor stranger. Julia and the stranger have sparks between them but Julia still pines for her Roderick. With smartly crafted hidden identities, the light comedy unfolds with many of the stock characters from Viennese operetta’s are present: the dreamy ingenue and her wise-cracking best friend; mooching relatives; the hapless, lovesick milquetoast; and, love interests for the girls–and, of course, all are happily united at the end.


One of the joys  at this operetta is in the fabulous 22 member orchestra, conducted by Anthony Barrese, that sounded magnificent! The cast of classically trained singers projected and enunciate expertly despite no amplification. The cast has professional singers from both the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Choruses. I was particularly impressed by the skilled comic chops from Nicholas Pulikowski who carried the lead with immense empathy. He gave one of the strongest performances seen on a Chicago stage this year!

The assortment of arias ranged from ballads, to marches, waltzes and a Boston Foxtrot, to patter songs, to cute plot specific tunes, to powerful anthems. The operetta’s  whimsical style is as much a crowd pleaser as is the melodious music.  Nothing is lost from the English translation and the tight production values make the show zip along nicely.

The Cousin from Nowhere is a show that would appeal to music lovers; operetta  fans; and, will enchant musical comedy lovers since it is so playful yet the sophisticated score and the witty lyrics are artful. Don’t let the word “operetta” fool you, this is a modern 20th-century musical comedy with a Vienesse flavor. Get to Stage 773 through July 24 to become captivated by the charm and whimsy of this winning genre.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

For more info checkout The Cousin from Nowhere page at

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, tickets $ $40, $35 for seniors and student and children under 12 $25,  performance dates July 9, 15, 16, and 22 at 7:30 p,, July 10, 16, 17 and 24 at 2pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through July 24