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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Opa! (Midtown International Theater Festival)

The Fab Marquee Review by David Stallings.

The Midtown International Theater Festival this year chose three productions that they considered to have the most commercial viability and showcased them as a highlight of the festival. One of the three was the musical, Opa! The plot follows a small community on a tiny island off the coast of Greece that has been left off of maps. No one really knows that the island exists and the inhabitants yearn to not only get on the map—but leave their peaceful abode and fulfill their dreams. The lively townsfolk also tremendous flavor to the colorful musical comedy. In fact, for the sections that soar, the audience feels like they are seeing a Greek Fiddler on the Roof—only lighter.

Opa! Cast Photo
The Cast of Opa!
photo credit: Erica Parise

The plot follows the town’s mayor, Costa (Joseph Callari), as he anticipates the arrival of a boat. He discovers that they have finally made it onto a globe! His wife, Sophia (Carolee Goodgold) , becomes hopeful that she can finally break out of the town and reunite with a long lost lover. Costa fights for his wife’s affections and realizes that being off the map may not have been a bad thing after all. The subplot revolves around their daughter, Elani (Abigail Hardin), and a triangle where she is torn between the narcissist Nicos (Michael D. Dionissiou) whom she loves and the fisherman Stavros (Demetrios Bonaros) who loves her. Mari Carras and Laurel Ollstein have crafted a charming book. Their plot is endearing and retains the cultural charm necessary for the musical to work. What should still be developed are the side characters that engage the audience so wonderfully. With more development of the old Grandmother Xenia (Jan Leslie Harding), the saucy coffee reader Soula (Natasha Tabandera), or the every day fisherman Stavros (Demetrios Bonaros)—the play will really have potential to be unforgettable. As it stands now, the piece is slightly too predictable and sparsely written characters—like the priest—are filled out too late in the game to make sense.

The score proved to be more troublesome than the book. Nicholas Carras and Donald Carl Eugster have a good start with a fantastic theme song that stays with you after the curtain. The problem is that the theme is not really repeated often enough or played upon to serve the rest of the score. The songs from Act 1 are especially tiresome, as they do not use the up-tempo expected for the plot—but rather seem to be forgettable ballad after forgettable ballad. Act 2 fairs much better—the audience relaxes as they hear a myriad of fun numbers and are curious as to why more were not in the first half. The audience also wonders why they do not hear more from the side characters—a fun song for Stavros would have been delightful.

Opa 2
Joseph Callari & Carolee Goodgold
photo credit: Erica Parise

As for the acting, Joseph Callari, and, Carolee Goodgold, were the standouts of the evening. Their chemistry was believable and truly carried the play. The biggest let down was at the climax, when the disagreeable Sophia finally realizes she has always loved Costa, and director Spiro Veloudos has staged them to hug. The audience felt robbed of a kiss. The refreshing breath of the writing, to have leads over forty, was muted by the director’s staging. There were many similar let downs from Veloudos throughout the play. Other standouts include: Demetrios Bonaros in a lively turn as Stavros and Natasha Tabandera as the sultry Soula. A big kudos goes out to Jan Leslie Harding in her fiery turn as Xenia.

Finally, fantastic choreography from Wendy Waring that brought spice to many moments and a simple yet gorgeous set from Anne Allen Goelz, add to a lovely evening. Everyone leaves happy—and hopeful that with further development, Opa! will have audiences cheering “Encore!” in the near future.

MITF is now closed.
For more information on OPA! visit their website at

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