“L’Étoile” brings “naughty fun” to Stansbury stage

Olivia Hendricks

Imagine a world in which the only beverages anyone ever drinks are martinis. It is not as far off as it might seem. Feb. 18-22, Lawrence students and faculty will be creating this fanciful world in Stansbury Theatre as they perform Emmanuel Chabrier’s comic opera “L’Étoile.” The performances will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 19-21 and 3 p.m. Feb. 22.
Tickets are free for Lawrence students, $5 for other students and senior citizens and $10 for adults, but purchasing the ticket is merely the first step in entering the whimsical kingdom of Ouf the First. Said Timothy X. Troy, stage director, “You have to indulge us. You’ll have to run with us even when we defy your logic.”
The plot of “L’Étoile” is indeed one of twisted love triangles and bizarre misunderstandings. A romance between the poor peddler Lazuli and the lovely Princess Laoula quickly grows complicated as the jealous King Ouf schemes to make Laoula his bride.
While the plot may seem outlandish, the music of Chabrier may surprise audiences, seeming remarkably familiar. Said Troy, “If you have a music background, you will enjoy hearing Chabrier’s quoting of other composers.” Even for those without that background, however, “L’Étoile” is “easy to listen to. The piece is new but it still sounds familiar, so you don’t have to dig deep into your soul to get it.”
In fact, Chabrier is notorious for his ability to incorporate humor into the music itself. Katelyn Smith, who plays in the pit orchestra, said, “The music is really comical. It’s a musical joke.” Professor of Music David Becker is conducting the orchestra, and according to Smith he “starts laughing all the time.”
While Troy said the audience should pay attention to the “music first,” the set and costumes are also sure to entertain. Troy designed the set himself, something he normally does not do. He underscored the playful nature of “L’Étoile” by keeping the set “light in two ways – both bright and physically light.” He drew inspiration from Federico Fellini’s black-and-white film “8 1/2” to create a world that would “look different, but not too different.”
Two different casts will perform from night to night: Lacey Jo Benter and Emily Shankman switch off as Lazuli, Keely Borland and Taylor Jacobson play Laoula and Alex Gmeinder and Chris Roebuck play King Ouf. Associate Professor of Music Bonnie Koestner has prepared these singers as the vocal coach.
No matter which night or which cast performs, the evening is sure to be one of whimsy, comedy and, as Troy described it, “naughty fun.

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