ORLANDO – The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and runs through May 29. This year the nearly three-week long festival will feature the largest line-up of shows in its history.
There are so many crazy things going on at Fringe — inside the venues, out in the beer tent, all over the place — that sometimes it can all feel like one big soap opera. So … why not do a soap opera at Fringe?
That sounded like a great idea to director Theresa Smith-Levin, who is bringing the show “Soap Opera Sloppy Seconds” to Fringe. It’s the saga of Butterfly, the 2016 Diva season winner, who has found that getting this kind of recognition doesn’t guarantee that everything works out smoothly in life.
Then bachelor Don Giovanni returns to the hit show to give love a sloppy second chance — and the real fun begins.
“Soap Opera Sloppy Seconds” is what Theresa calls “a show in a show,” since it’s a sequel to last year’s Fringe show “Soap Opera.” This sequel merges opera with musical theater.
“Opera stars — and the archetypes we portray, for that matter — have a reputation for being stuffy, but who can we be when that’s all stripped away?” Theresa asked. “Our singers are some of the best in Orlando, sharing original and hilarious stories that appeal to the opera buff and introduce the novice to the genre in a most approachable and funny way.”
She added that “The raunchiness of Fringe meets the champagne bubbles of opera for a most delightful romp.”
And the show owes its origins to … opera singers!
This original show was written by the Central Florida Vocal Arts‘ creative team led by Nishaa Carson (who also did musical direction as acts in the show), Justin Morrison (who plays Don Giovanni), and Sean Duncan, and has a cast that includes Bryan Hayes, Ben Ludwig, Maeghin Mueller, David Bracamonte, Fabiola Rivera and Duncan.
Hoping to learn more, Freeline Media reached out to Theresa for some operatic answers.
Freeline Media: Don Giovanni, opera stars, song and comedy? Quite the mix! Do tell.
Theresa Smith-Levin: I always come back to the mission of Central Florida Vocal Arts with this kind of question. We are a group of 20 to 30-something opera singers who like to have fun and want to make the art form innovative and approachable for our friends and peers. We came up with the “Soap Opera” concept for the 2016 first installment in our Fringe series. It was such a fun show and quite successful with the festival crowd that we decided to bring it back this year with a “Bachelor in Paradise” set up, and it evolved into something even wilder than last year! Not only is it a parody of reality TV shows like “The Bachelor,” it is a parody of the opera genre as a whole. The singers in this production are all highly skilled musicians with outstanding voices. Usually they are required to be so serious on stage, but in “Soap Opera Sloppy Seconds,” they bring to life a script that is completely over the top! Watching these consummate musicians explore playful parody on stage with one another is worth the ticket price alone.
FM: Using this show, do you have some worldly insights to share on the nature of opera stars?
Theresa: Opera stars … we are an interesting breed, aren’t we? We are like the red headed stepchildren of theater and music: dramatic and sometimes overly serious, but like most theater actors, we are generally ready to have a good time and make poor decisions. The artists with whom we work are a blast and don’t take themselves or their craft too seriously, and therefore are not afraid to push the envelope and sometimes take a jab at themselves.
FM: What are the origins of “Soap Opera Sloppy Seconds?”
Theresa: We developed the “Soap Opera” concept for our 2016 Fringe show over an Officers’ meeting that had devolved — as they often do — into television gossip. From there we conceptualized a parody of “The Bachelor,” but with opera characters! The ways in which operatic characters behave are often times unbelievably ridiculous … just like reality TV stars! We had such a wonderful time with the rehearsal and performance of “Soap Opera” that we knew a sequel was in order. This year the plot follows a “Bachelor In Paradise” story line with several bachelors and bachelorettes, including Don Giovanni, Brunhilde, Roxie Hart and more! We even have a drag queen … but she emerged from our imagination rather than the operatic repertoire.
FM: Raunchiness? Let’s hear more.
Theresa: Did you catch drag queen in the last answer? Her name is Chamomile T and she leads the Raunchy Parade with her song “If You Really Loved Me” by Tim Minchin. Take a gander at the YouTube video if you’re curious … In actuality, all the characters are trying to win the love of others and battle the seduction of money, power and sexual confusion.
FM: Finally, after Fringe, where is this show headed next?
Theresa: We can’t guarantee that there won’t be a Soap Opera, Menage a Trois making this a trilogy! Central Florida Vocal Arts has a full season planned and is excited to share opera to modern audiences in new and unexpected ways.
“Soap Opera Sloppy Seconds” is being performed in the Black Venue on the following times:
* Saturday May 20 at 3 p.m.
* Monday May 22 at 7:30 p.m.
* Wednesday May 24 at 7:30 p.m.
* Saturday May 27 at 4:30 p.m.
* Sunday May 28 at 3 p.m.
For tickets visit Orlando Fringe.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..