Hip Shot: Gallantry

645 New York Ave NW

Remaining Performances:

Wednesday, July 13, 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 16, 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 19, 6 p.m.

They say: What will Naughty Nurse Lola do when Dr. Gregg propositions her? Will she stay true to her fiance, the patient? Or will she give into her primal lust? Gallantry is a soap opera complete with dancers, nudity, and advertisements.

Rebecca's Take: Sometimes the images artists use to promote their Fringe shows are more or less false advertising. Just because there’s a biker chick in a bustier on the postcard doesn’t mean there’s one in the show. That’s why Opera Alterna deserves some sort of award for Best Cartoon Depiction of a Fringe Star. The naughty flame-haired nurse on the cover of the program does indeed resemble Emily Casey, the tarted-up soprano making her non-school debut in Gallantry. See the comic one-act opera and you’ll see her in the flesh, complete with tantalizing garters and threatening syringe.

What a promotional photo or cartoon postcard can’t do, of course, is convey whether Casey can sing. She's all the more alluring if you know that she can. A rising senior at Catholic University, Casey has a bright, glossy tone that’s expressive without devolving into parody, as can easily happen in a comic opera like Douglas Moore’s slight 1958 effort, Gallantry. (Fringe & Purge Factoid! The opera premiered at Columbia University on a double bill with an opera by Dominic Argento, a composer who is now famous, while Moore is long dead.)

Anyway, as Nurse Lola, Casey plays opposite Fringe veteran James Rogers, a pleasant baritone who attempts to seduce her while she prepares anesthesia. Much to Dr. Gregg’s dismay, the patient with a swollen appendix turns out to be Donald (tenor Tad Czyzewski) Lola’s fiancé. The surgeon is just as tempted to let his scalpel slip as slip his hand down Lola’s low-cut white dress. The meta-premise, for the audience, is that we’re not watching an opera, but a soap opera. And this being the Fringe, we’re watching everything in the cavernous (but air-conditioned, thank God) space appropriately called the Warehouse.

The acoustics aren’t kind to mezzo-soprano Rebecca Stugart, a recent Catholic musical theater graduate who has trouble projecting over the upright piano. She’s a classy actress, though, and moves well despite having a flask stowed away in her green sequined strapless dress. As the announcer, Stugart takes a swig before shilling for Lochinvar soap, which sounds to me like the preferred bath product on Valhalla.

There’s an intermission commercial too, this time for Stugart and three dancers hawking floor wax. And at the opera’s close, Dr. Gregg joins the flaking fray, leaving Lola and Donald to sing of their love in the recovery room while he and Stugart fight over the Lochinvar sign. With the right voices and stage, that closing quartet must make for a stunningly funny finale. But the vocals are pretty much a wash here. Gallantry’s not a squeaky clean production, but by Fringe opera standards, it’s got suds to spare.

See it if: You have no qualms about paying more to see a 27-minute Fringe opera than you would for a standing-room Ring Cycle ticket at the Met.

Skip it if: The prospect of scantily clad Catholic coeds doesn’t offset having to listen to opera.