USM's Merry Wives of Windsor Puts the Women in Control

GORHAM, ME: Polite society is delightfully turned head-over-heels with Otto Nicolai's version of The Merry Wives of Windsor, where the merry (meaning naughty) wives take control of Falstaff's unwanted advances.  Opening on Friday, March 3, and running through Sunday, March 12, the USM School of Music and Department of Theatre join forces in Nicolai's fully-staged comic opera, The Merry Wives of Windsor, with some of the fantastic student voices audiences have come to know and love from recent musical theatre and opera performances in the School of Music, and some new voices you can't miss. The show is directed by nationally and internationally recognized director Cary Libkin, with musical direction by Scott Wheatley. Fully-staged with the Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Lehmann, this production features choreography by Maria A. Tzianabos, costume design by Anna Grywalski, technical direction by Perry Fertig, lighting design by Jamie Grant '97 and set design by Chris Price

The piece is full of fresh and sweet melodies, beautiful harmonies and elegant orchestrations. Add to that some of Shakespeare's most immortal comic characters; Mistresses Ford and Page, the beautiful Anne Page and her ill-suited suitors Slender and Dr. Cajus, Fenton, (the actual suitor to Anne), and of course, the most beloved rascal of all, Sir John Falstaff, and you are certain to have a great time. The music soars, and comedy roars, and you'll leave wanting more.

Director Cary Libkin explains, "Nicolai's take on the Shakespeare tale begins with the title. Note that it's not titled "Falstaff;" Verdi did that. This opera is not about Falstaff but rather the "merry" wives, Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Page and Anne. The entire piece is focussed on the women, and it is they who solve problems, establish justice, and have a whole lot of fun in the process. Basically, the women make all of the smart choices, and the men make all the dumb ones - just like marriage today."

The cast is made up of USM students studying classical voice, opera, and musical theatre from Maine and beyond: Rachel Shukan from Woburn, MA as Mrs. Alice Ford; Helena Crothers-Villers from Brunswick as Mrs. Meg Page; Thomas Hanlon from Norton, MA as Mr. Page; Sean Arsenault from Scarborough as Slender; Matty Boyd from Medford, NJ as Dr. Cajus; Logan MacDonald from Mt. Desert Island as Mr. Ford; graduate student David Meyers, Jr. from South Portland as Fenton; Matt LaBerge of South Portland as Sir John Falstaff; Ida Santos from Pembroke, NH as Anne; and ensemble members, Andrew Carney from Millinocket; Kiersten Curtis from Waterville; Teremy Garen from Colchester, VT; Christopher Garrepy from Burrillville, RI; Markis Larrivee from Topsham; Megan Mayfield from Marlborough, MA; Celeste Mittelhauser from Gouldsboro; Nicole Ponte from Dartmouth, MA; Rachel Rivera from Cumberland; Benjamin Walker-Dubay from Kennebunk; and Ian Yarnell from Newport, VT.

The Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra will add their collective 'voices' to those on stage to bring the colorful orchestration and soaring melodies of Otto Nicolai's opera to life.

"Nicolai's wonderful music has it all; light, patter music in the Gilbert and Sullivan mould, elegant and charming Viennese style, and stately, ethereal chorus numbers," says conductor Robert Lehmann. "Orchestra members always look forward to the quadrennial collaboration with our opera and theater colleagues, as it affords the musicians the unusual opportunity to play some of the amazing operatic literature."

This production is sponsored by Drs. John '90 and Elizabeth Serrage

Performances on the Main Stage at Russell Hall on the USM Gorham Campus are at 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays, March 3, 4 and 10, 11, and at 5 p.m. on Sundays, March 5 and 12. Note: The Sunday, March 5 show will be ASL interpreted.

Tickets are $21 for the general public; $15 for seniors, USM employees and alumni; and $10 for students.

Purchase tickets online at www.usm.maine.edu/theatre, or by calling the Music or Theatre Box Office: (207) 780-5151 or 5555.

Those needing special accommodations to participate fully in this program, contact Lori Arsenault, (207) 780-5142, loria@maine.edu. Deaf and hard of hearing participants: call USM's telex / TDD number (207) 780-5646. Note: The Sunday, March 5 show will be ASL interpreted.