April 20, 2006


 Opera in Focus

If you want to introduce your children to opera, but aren’t sure if they’re ready for The Lyric, consider trying Opera in Focus in Rolling Meadows. This one-hour show features ornate puppets singing songs from operas such as “Turandot” and “La Forza del Destino,” in 10-minute segments, with short breaks in between.

Be forewarned: much of the music is in Italian or German, which made it a little rough for my 7-year-old. She loved watching the puppets, but kept asking what they were singing. My 10-year-old didn’t like the opera music at all, but when the puppets sang four songs from “Fiddler on the Roof” (in English and with the characters talking as well) she fell in love with puppet opera.

Opera in Focus is a very small theater nestled in the lower level of the Rolling Meadows Park District. There were only six children in the audience, the rest were senior citizens, and a quick exit poll revealed the kids had mixed feelings about the show, mostly because they couldn’t understand what the puppets were singing.

What all the kids (and grown-ups) enjoyed was going backstage after the show to learn how the puppets work and to meet the puppeteers. The six men responsible for all aspects of Opera in Focus, from making the puppet costumes to operating the individual puppets, were more than willing to answer any questions and show the kids how things worked. Liz DeCarlo

Opera in Focus performs at 3000 Central Road, Rolling Meadows, at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Tickets are $12, $7 kids 11 and under. Musical selections change every few weeks and include some segments that might be more kid-friendly, such as “Pops at the Puppet Opera” in May. Reservations are required at (847) 818-3220, ext. 186, www.operainfocus.com.



 "The Kingdom of Grimm: A Musical Based on Three Stories by the Brothers Grimm" Three Brothers Grimm fairy tales came to life during this production of "The Kingdom of Grimm: A Musical Based on Three Stories by the Brothers Grimm." The stage was set in an ominous forest where we first meet Hans. From that first scene when Hans finds a magical key and a mysterious trunk, the children in the audience were on the edge of their seats shouting “Open it!” Everyone was anxious to see what was in the enchanted trunk. He opens it and frees Gerhardt the Great and his troupe of traveling players. To express their gratitude for being set free, the players perform three fairy tales: “The Golden Goose,” “The Three Huntsmen” and “The Four Skillful Brothers.” As storyteller Gerhardt the Great retells the fairy tales, he tries to impress on Hans some serious life lessons, such as generosity, loyalty and kindness. However, Hans keeps the mood light and the audience laughing as he interjects his take on what the players are really trying to teach him. Wonderful musical performances, ranging from ballads to blues, are interspersed throughout the production keeping the children engaged and interested. My son and I especially enjoyed the performance by Adalia, who kept us guessing with her riddles. When Adalia was captured by the dragon, the audience was once again enthralled by what was going to happen next. The story ends on a high note with Adalia being set free and Hans realizing that the tales have taught him some very valuable lessons. This 90-minute production, which is recommended for ages 5 and up, kept my 8-year-old giggling and thoroughly entertained. Maureen Robst

"The Kingdom of Grimm: A Musical Based on Three Stories by the Brothers Grimm" is playing at  DePaul's Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo Dr., Chicago at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday and  2 p.m. Saturday until May 20. (312) 922-1999, theatreschool.depaul.edu.


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