It’s likely you have heard of German composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner and some of his operas such as Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Numrnburg and of course, the four-opera cycle of Der Ring des Nibelungen. But if you want more insight into Wagner and the Ring as viewed through The Second City’s magnifying glass, try to snag a ticket to “Longer, Louder Wagner – The Second City Wagner Companion,” playing only this weekend in a Lyric Opera rehearsal room.
A collaboration between Lyric Unlimited which is the Lyric Opera’s outreach arm and The Second City, “Longer, Louder Wagner” is ninety minutes of hilarious fun, clever analysis and terrific singing. It is also a joyful, tongue-in cheek guide to the Lyric’s four-year Ring cycle that began fall of 2016 with Das Rheingold
Written by Second City regular Tim Sniffen who wrote Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf, a Writers Theatre production, “Longer, Louder” reveals Wagner’s controversial foibles ranging from his political views and idiosyncrasies to love affairs and his disregard for propriety and others’ feelings.
The show starts with the composer’s grandson directing a light-hearted opera in a Chicago suburb and then switching to the Ring. The concept is not as farfetched as it may seem.
The annual Bayreuth Festival of Wagner’s works where the suburban cast has moved its Ring production actually is operated by the composer’s descendants.
As good as the storyline is, it is the cast that makes this show special beginning with musical director and composer Jesse Case who not only plays the piano on stage but is the larger-than-life Wagner.
The voices of two Lyric performers, Tracy Cantin as Valerie who will do Wotan’s daughter, Bruennhilde, in the show and Jonah D. Winston as Morgan who will play Wotan but prefers more cheerful roles, are wonderful reminders of why people go to the opera.
Most of the rest of the cast, Tim Ryder (grandson Fred Wagner), Sayjal Joshi (Margueritte) Randall Harr (Dirk) have performed with The Second City. Playwright/comedian Alice Stanley Jr.’s (Karen) credits include iO Theater and Chicago Sketchfest.
If Travis Turner (Gunther) looks familiar to Chicago audiences it is because he was outstanding as Thaddeus in Lookingglass Theatre’s recent Thaddeus and Slocum production.
Directed by Anneliese Toft, “Longer Louder Wagner” is a joyful introduction to Wagner and the Ring cycle.
Details: “Longer Louder Wagner” is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL now through Oct. 30, 2016. For tickets and other information call 312-827-5600 and visit Lyric.