There have been many takes on the original Marius Petipa/Lev Ivanov/Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake (1895). Matthew Bourne did his gay version. A European ballet company filled its stage with water and had the swans slosh through the swampy “lake” wrapped in plastic as an ecological statement. The Trocks (Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo) turned the lyrical Act II into a campy display of one-upmanship.
Now there’s Swan Lake Rock Opera created by Mirit Shem-Ur (book and lyrics), Tsedi Sarfati (director and dramaturge) and Sharona Pick (music production and additional music). The show uses orchestral themes from the original Tchaikovsky score and clever pop variations to create witty songs and underscoring.
The libretto of Rock Opera follows the original Swan Lake plot points which tell of Young Prince Siegfried, ordered by his mother the Queen to choose a fiancée from a list of foreign princesses she has assembled. He goes off to hunt to avoid making a decision and meets the Swan/Woman Odette and falls in love only to be deceived by her doppelganger Odile, an agent of the evil Von Rothbart who has cast a spell that turned women into swans. This deception leads to tragedy.
Swan Lake Rock Opera’s Siegfried aka Ziggy (an adorable, fine-voiced Kenneth Remaklus) is a playboy beleaguered by his mom, Queen Sherdanelle (Maya Murphy, a regal hoot), to marry. Ziggy is buoyed by his boyhood friends Benno (suave singer/actor Cameron Cave), Wolfgang (Teddy Calvin, a particularly fine singer), and Von Schliefen (Berlin Charles, combining sexiness with a youthful demeanor) who is also the Queen’s boy toy.
Odile (Jennifer Posie Morrison, slinky and exciting), the daughter of Von Rothbart (John Stillwaggon, playing the villain with just the right amount of campy vigor), believes that Ziggy will marry her despite the fact she isn’t of royal lineage. Besides, her father reminds her, Queen Sherdanelle needs Siegfried to marry into a rich, royal family to refresh the treasury.
In this version Odette (a sweet and warm Madeline Lukomski), a newbie Swanny, steals Ziggy’s heart.
The Swans aka Swannies are prostitutes working for the high class pimp Von Rothbart. The four wonderful actors who portray these mini-tutu’d divas also double up as Ziggy’s maids and the four international finacée-hopefuls to make sure they earn their pay!
They are Emily Sharick, Chandler Corley-Essex, Caroline Mcfee and Lily Page, all wickedly sexy and quite individually talented.
Complications include Von Rothbart’s infatuation with Odette and the passing around of a royal tiara. The ending of Swan Lake Rock Opera is upbeat, if a bit too precipitous.
The songs all come out of the characters’ situations. Each character has a chance to warble words attached to Tchaikovsky’s melodies with smart lyrics conforming to his melodic complexities conducted by Assaf Averbuch. Von Rothbart sings of his power over his Swannies, the Queen of her romantic and financial needs, and Ziggy of his impending loss of his freedom, all anchored to the familiar classical musical themes.
Budgetary restrictions probably affected the scarcity of scenery (credited to Tsedi Sarfati), but the extravagantly constructed, colorful period costumes by Ella Kolesnik need something to play against other than a black drop and four chairs. The contrast between the flamboyance of the outfits and the paucity of set pieces is a bit disturbing.
The simple bits of choreography are credited to Tut Mullor and the lighting, which included illuminating a parade down the center aisle, is by Maarten Cornelis.
Swan Lake Rock Opera isn’t an actual opera and its rock sound isn’t bonafide, but it is an entertaining musical treat assembled with care and performed by a gung-ho cast.
Swan Lake Rock Opera (Thursdays through December 30, 2021)
Actors Temple Theatre, 339 West 47th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets visit http://www.swanlakerockopera.com
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission