Mssng Lnks recently presented “Fickle Faces of Love,” a mash-up operetta of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury” and Jaques Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman” at Hibernian Hall.
A self-described musical romp through the ever-shifting faces and fickle faces of love, the production — which boasted more than 30 young voices ages 14-20 and exhilaratingly talented principals — was a solid night of singing and acting that was both hilarious and powerful.
In the first act, there’s a barrister who gets to be a judge if he marries a rich attorney’s daughter named Ruth (Mezzo-Soprano Anne Byrne) and a young gigolo Edwin (tenor, Ashward Jones) who catches the eyes of three little maids in town.
At the wedding, the Judge lifts the veil only to find that Ruth is old and unattractive. He later divorces her. The scorned Ruth comes up with a plan to get Hoffman (dramatic tenor Dan Kamalic) back into her clutches. She creates a beautiful mechanical doll Olympia (coloratura, Jennifer Carluzzi) as bait and introduces him to Antonia (dramatic soprano, Joei Marshall Perry). Antonia has an undisclosed disease where singing causes her to die.
Once Hoffman falls for both ladies, Ruth urges Olympia to dance until she breaks apart and pushes Antonia to sing until she dies.
Meanwhile the Three Little Maids Angelina (Samantha Tan), Kate (Shawntia Edler) and Edith (Jordan Lloyd) are expert flirts. They sing coquettishly and dispense girlish giggles to show their interest in Edwin. Eventually, Kate and Edith back off and let Angelina and Edwin’s love blossom.
Later in show, it seems that Edwin’s love for Angelina has faded. His heart beats for another, Angelina’s friend Edith. In anger, Angelina brings Edwin to court and shows up in her wedding dress. Everyone in the court house falls in love with Angelina including the Judge (tenor, Marques Hollie) who happens to be Ruth’s ex-husband.
The courthouse becomes a musical circus of sorts and the audience in the court gives a play-by-play of the drama unfolding before them.
The weary bailiff (Mssng Lnks founder and tenor Sam Martinborough) tries desperately to control the chortling, snickering and talking of those present in the court.
In the midst of the chaos, Edwin suggests that he marry Angelina today and Edith tomorrow while the Judge tells the story of how he married the attorney’s ugly daughter. Angelina’s lawyer (tenor, Xavier Lewis) fiercely objects.
Without a little bit of background of both operas, the mash-up might feel more like a lovely set of loosely connected scenes until the end of the show when all the pieces come together. Though the diction gets lost in some instances, the mash-up was fun and entertaining.
Principal Dan Kamalic roared onstage with charisma that wowed the audience.
He belts out “Oh, is There Not One Maiden” in the presence of Olympia with such conviction that listeners are hanging on to his every word and sympathizing with his unfortunate position.
Olympia remains silent during the first number but later delivers a brilliant performance of “All the Birds in the Woods.”
Watching her perform is a sight to behold. Her timbre is bright and colorful as she expertly navigates difficult malismas with grace. The obvious adulation the Mssng Lnks group showed for Carluzzi’s and the other principals musical prowess was most touching.
The young singers get to work with a variety of seasoned performers which rounds out Martinborough’s vision of exposure. According to its mission Mssng Lnks helps students find their voice, literally and figuratively, and manage the many challenges they will face on the road to becoming a professional singer, including finding a network of support.
So far, it seems that Martinborough’s approach is working.
Not only have the students their found their voices, they’re on their way to commanding the stage.