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UNT vocalist sails into historical ‘Show Boat’ musical with the Dallas Opera

UNT vocalist sails into historical ‘Show Boat’ musical with the Dallas Opera

April 21
02:55 2016

Victoria Monteros | Staff Writer

@ToriLaSuper

The Dallas Opera presented its first musical this past Friday at the Winspear Opera House. “Show Boat,” a 1927 American combination of both musical and opera elements.

The production’s combination of several elements is unlike anything the Dallas Opera has done before, and features vocal and flute senior Malcom Payne Jr.

“It’s really cool how they’re mixing the two mediums,” Payne Jr. said about the Dallas Opera’s rendition of “Show Boat.”

Payne Jr. said the production put into this musical has been extensive with a variety of staging and scenery, a 40-foot prop container and costumes that ended up filling half of a 53-foot semi-trailer truck.

The stage for “Show Boat” has been meticulously designed with every prop designated for a specific part of the scene. The Dallas Opera has also teamed up with Dallas Black Dance Theatre to bring dance components that assist in bringing the show to life.

“My biggest goal is to make sure I put my bell in the right spot every time,” Payne Jr. said. “Chorus has a lot of duty to make sure that the stage is set up the exact same way so the principles can have something consistent to work off of with their acting.”

Not only is “Show Boat” elaborate in terms of dancing, casting and staging, but the show itself offers many lessons in history, covering about four decades of modern American history through the transition from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.

“It’s definitely a grand operatic experience, even though technically speaking it’s an American musical,” said Dallas Opera director of media and public relations Suzanne Calvin.

“Show Boat” was also one of the first major musicals on Broadway to unite black and white artists on stage, leaving an impression on the nation at the time. It also contributed widely to pop culture, with instantly recognizable songs like “Ol’ Man River,” and heavily influenced musicals afterward.

“Dance is also one of the means by which we show progression of time in this musical,” Calvin said. “People start out doing nice little 19th century waltzes and by the end of it, they’re doing the Charleston.”

The Dallas Opera prides itself in not having a narrow focus on one particular specialty. It aims to offer a wide range of repertoire to appeal to everyone in the community.

Courtesy | Karen Almond

Courtesy | Karen Almond

“We try to give something to music lovers in the community every season that will attract them,” Calvin said. “It helps to keep us fresh as well, and to keep us engaged, because each time we do something that’s new for us, it challenges us on a slightly different level.”

So far, the show has proven a success with audience members. Vocal performance senior Amanda Jacobsen has been anticipating the show all year, and was not disappointed.

“I loved the show. So many good things happened with this production,” Jacobsen said. “My eyes were glued to the stage and I really felt involved in the story.”

She also appreciated its historical significance.

“While it’s a fun show to watch, there were also comments about the treatment of African Americans during that time, which I think makes this an important piece to show audiences,” Jacobson said. “It’s not just a ‘feel good’ musical, but also a musical that discusses inequalities and social issues.”

Performing in this major production has also been a valuable and unforgettable experience for Payne Jr. and all the cast members.

“Opening night was exhilarating,” Payne Jr. said. “Making that first entrance onstage to a full house was such an inspirational moment that gave the entire cast a special energy throughout the performance.”

It has also challenged him on bettering his skills during interaction with the audience.

“The biggest challenge in opening night was adjusting to the feedback we were receiving from the audience.” Payne Jr. said. “Holding the intensity through pauses for applause, taking time for laughter and making sure to remain consistent in regard to the rehearsal performance to make sure the show runs smoothly.”

The Dallas Opera hopes to provide the opportunity to experience opera to people who may not be able to attend the show. They will be providing a free simulcast of the show on the big screen at AT&T Stadium 7:30 p.m. on April 23rd Saturday in addition to holding traditional performances at Winspear Opera House.

Featured Image: Courtesy | Karen Almond

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