Frisco — Open Classical’s comic opera about Thanksgiving, The True (Not Exactly True) Story of Thanksgiving!, with tunes taken from more traditional operas and lyrics by Artistic Director Mark Landson, had the production values of a middle-school play, it’s true. Also, it started 15 minutes late and the lighting folks had all the lighting cues for the production visible to all on an oversized screen behind the stage before the show started.
But I laughed for pretty much the entire hour of the production, and learned something about the history behind our celebration of Thanksgiving, besides.
Thus, I recommend that you go next year, when Landson promises a reprise, with a few additions and edits.
This is a production more or less suitable for families—there are a few salacious jokes, but I suspect they would go over the heads of the younger crowd, and there’s lots of kid-friendly humor.
The music co-opts tunes of composers from Händel to Orff, and throws in a little “Turkey in the Straw” as a bonus. The show outlines the voyage and subsequent resettling of the pilgrims on the Mayflower. Even the bits that don’t seem funny at all, such as the aria (with music from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas) titled “The Starving Time” are indeed made funny here, with soprano Lara Beth Bliss singing of her desire for a Wendy’s cheeseburger and a Starbucks latte—with Sweet’N Low.
She, and all the other pilgrims, eventually happily settle for the corn introduced to them by the Native American Squanto in the aria “Squanto’s Lesson in Farming,” featuring music from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
The “Turkey in the Straw” figures in when clarinetist Brent Buemi, attired in a turkey costume, becomes the prey for the allied pilgrims and natives. They chase him with ineffectual bows and arrows and blunderbusses, but he is finally dispatched by bassoonist Stephanie Magnus, whose bassoon apparently doubles as a musket. Armed with this knowledge, I shall treat bassoonists with greater respect and caution in future.
Open Classical’s production was far from polished, but it was fun and, indeed, memorable. Open Classical’s initiatives, including classical open mic nights in Dallas and Frisco, bring classical music to a wide audience and make it enjoyable and accessible for those who might perceive the classical music experience as stuffy and confining. It is groups such as Open Classical that will help classical music continue to be a vital, thriving part of our culture in the 21st century.
» Open Classical hosts classical open mic nights at 8 p.m. every Tuesday at Buzzbrews Kitchen, 4334 Lemmon Ave., Dallas; and from 6 to 9 p.m. on the First Monday of the month at 4710 Preston Road, Frisco. (After after the Dec. 1 and 2, the group will take a break for the rest of December, and start back up on Jan. 5). Also, look for its performers at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6 in Klyde Warren Park as part of the Dallas Arts District's holiday celebration.