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   from the issue of February 22, 2007

  Production readies for competition in Ireland

Opera 'Most Happy' to open


The big voices of "The Most Happy Fella" struck a chord with Ariel Bybee.

PHOTO TIME - Tony (center, on barrel), played by T. Doyle Levertt, poses as his picture is taken during the second...
 PHOTO TIME - Tony (center, on barrel), played by T. Doyle Levertt, poses as his picture is taken during the second scene of "The Most Happy Fella." Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.

After attending a Broadway performance of the Frank Loesser classic in 1978, Bybee - an associate professor of music - loved breaking down the nuances of the show's unique opera/musical blend.

"It's a show of heavy voices balanced by lighter voices, a mix of about 75 percent opera and 25 percent musical," Bybee said. "I loved 'Most Happy Fella' the first time I saw it. And, it's a show I've wanted to be involved with ever since."

Her chance opens this week.

Joined by her husband, James E. Ford, an associate professor in English, Bybee is codirector of the UNL opera program performance of "Most Happy Fella," opening Feb. 22 in Kimball Recital Hall. Performances are at noon Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 and 3 p.m. Feb. 25. The production will also perform at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, July 28-29, then travel in September to Waterford, Ireland, for the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera.

The UNL opera program competed in the Waterford event in 2003, earning four top awards, including best operetta for their production of "The Bohemian Girl." The 2003 competition included 10 productions, nine of which were from Europe.

After returning from that event, Bybee was eager to go back.

ORCHESTRA PREP - Tyler White, associate professor of music, directs the orchestra through warm-ups prior to a Feb. 19 dress rehearsal...
ORCHESTRA PREP - Tyler White, associate professor of music, directs the orchestra through warm-ups prior to a Feb. 19 dress rehearsal of "The Most Happy Fella" in Kimball Recital Hall. White and five members of the orchestra will travel with the production to Ireland. Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.


"I told James that, if we ever had the chance to go back again, 'The Most Happy Fella' would be the perfect show for this competition," Bybee said. "It's about an Italian vintner in the Napa Valley. I really think it's a show the people at the competition would enjoy."

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "They Knew What They Wanted" by Sidney Howard, "The Most Happy Fella" tells the story of Tony, a middle-aged owner of a vineyard who proposes through the mail to a woman. In his proposal, Tony encloses a photo of a young, handsome foreman.

When the woman, Rosabella, accepts, she is hurt and humiliated upon learning the truth. However, a loving understanding grows between the two during Tony's convalescence from a near-fatal accident.

The production features T. Doyle Levett as Tony in the Feb. 22, 23 and 25 productions. Levett is a professional singer who has played Tony on Broadway and the New York City Opera.

Tony will be played by William Shomos, associate professor of music, for the Lincoln Community Playhouse and Waterford performances.

Anna DeGraff, a senior in fine and performing arts, plays Rosabella in all performances.

The production includes a live orchestra directed by Tyler White, associate professor of music. Other UNL faculty involved include Therees Hibbard as chorus master, and Kevin Hanrahan playing the role of the Doctor.

The production has been called the most operatic of all American musicals. It includes Broadway hits "Standin' On The Corner," "Big D," and "My Heart Is So Full Of You."

"This is a wonderful opportunity to see live theater the way it is supposed to be, with big beautiful voices in a Broadway-size theater, singing over the orchestra with no mikes," Bybee said. "This will be presented like a true Broadway show. You will be able to see it how Loesser intended."

Tickets are $20 general admission, $10 for students and senior citizens. For more information, contact the Lied Center box office at 472-4747.



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