PLNU’s Point Loma Opera Theater and Musical Theater Club have brought an opera to campus that appeals to all ages.
“The Most Happy Fella,” a musical with music, lyrics and libretto by Frank Loesser, is based on the novel “They Knew What They Wanted” by Sidney Howard. It premiered on Broadway in 1956 and ran for 14 months, with several revivals since.
This production, originally directed by Shirley Johnston, reveals the power of a musical that compiles the talents of differing musical styles and performers.
“To me, this is musical theater at it’s finest from a different era,” Johnston said in a statement about the production. “A time when the voices on Broadway were not that much different from the voices at the Metropolitan Opera.”
The ambiance of the orchestra warming up in the pit before the opening curtain lent a professional quality to the performance. It transformed Crill Performance Hall into the West End’s London Palladium, a herald to some of the best theater in the world. Red, blue and purple lighting adorned the stage as audience members filled up the hall almost to its capacity. The demographics of the audience ranged from young to old, students to visitors.
The male lead is Tony, played by senior Sam Bravo. Tony is a large, charismatic, older Italian man with a thick accent and a big heart. All he wants in this last stage of his life is a woman to love him in return. Bravo’s pensive, emotion-laden voice carried over the audience with the force of a mournful French horn breaking the stillness of a foggy autumn morning. It was easy to see in his eyes the depth of his character’s struggle for happiness.
The female lead, Rosabella, was played by junior Kelsey Kammeraad. Her background in opera served her well with this role, as she sang her way straight to the core of the story. Rosabella wanted to be wanted, and nothing was more evident with each desperate, heartbreaking glance Kammeraad threw across the stage.
Other standouts included Joe, played by senior Anthony Whitson-Martini, and Cleo, played by junior Kiana Bell. Whitson-Martini infused his own dry sense of humor into Joe’s character, keeping the audience laughing throughout the performance. Bell was sarcastic and confident to the very end, strutting through the production like a seasoned professional.
PLNU musical director, Craig Johnson, teaches voice and serves as faculty advisor for the Point Loma Opera Theater and the Point Loma Musical Theater Club. In the production, he plays the postman, adding another character to the list of more than 40 operatic roles he has performed on stage, with companies ranging from the Los Angeles Opera to the Opera de Tijuana.
The entire show was dedicated to Emeritus Professor Dr. Myron Tweed, who served the Department of Music at PLNU from 1973 to 2000, Tweed taught voice and courses in church music, directing the Point Loma Singers and the annual Madrigal Dinner and productions of “Brigadoon” and “My Fair Lady” here at PLNU.