street scene opera pic

In the middle of a song, a large portion of the cast took to the stage to perform one of the final pieces of Street Scene

On Nov. 12-14, Iowa State’s Department of Music and Theater performed the operatic version of Elmer Rice’s book and play "Street Scene."

As the crowd slowly piled in and found their way to their seats, jazz music ambiently played in the background a few minutes before the show. Setting the tone for the time period the show takes place in, the music gradually grew until the show started.

Starting off with a bit of dialogue to establish that it’s a hot day in New York, singing ensued as the first song “Ain’t it Awful in the Heat” followed by “Oi de Moiders” sang by characters Kaplan, played by Ethan Cooper, senior, Mrs. Florentino, played by Morgan Reetz, junior, Mrs. Jones, played by Elise Cameron, senior.

Characters Mrs. Olsen, played by Annika Baker, junior, Olsen, played by Cole Stephenson, senior and the Salvation Army Girls played by Freshmen Milan Hale and Carlee Carpenter, also expressed their discomfort with the environment through the pieces. 

Progressing the plot, short bits of dialogue followed almost all songs to set the premise for the next song, the actors once again broke out into song, deepening points of the plot.

Heavily playing on the light to help extenuate the mood of each song, the lighting was a beast of its own in the production. Illuminating the set, the overall mix of white and colored lights gave the proper of look of a New York tenement building of the 1930s.

With a large cast that most in the production hadn’t experienced before, the swath of performers made of a range of different families and passersby. Most notably, the cast of the Maurrant Family had the lion’s share of songs with at least one of them in just about every song.

The serious tone of the opera was often broken up with some comic relief. Most notable in the show was Lippo Fiorentino played by Elias Perez, a junior in culinary food science. Perez broke up some of the dire feeling with his debut song “Ice-Cream Sextet.”

While generally well-received, the production was not without difficulties. Notably in the first act, the mix between vocals and Iowa State’s Symphony Orchestra below the stage proved difficult for audience members to hear. Improving as the show went on, the sound found a working mix that allowed the audience to get the full feel of each song.

“There were definitely moments where I was thinking ‘oh my gosh, this went terrible',” said Matthew Hennessey, a junior in performing arts who played Daniel Buchannan. “But then I come back downstairs and everybody is like ‘what are you talking about?’”

Feeling the difficulties of having to put on the show three days straight, Hennessey felt the pressure, but his fellow cast helped to assure him that all was going well.

“Acting definitely is a mental challenge,” said Sadie Etzel, a senior majoring in music and finance who played Anna Maurrant. “Being on stage, I mean in life I guess, if you mess up you just gotta learn how to be like ‘okay still going though, so get back into a positive mindset.’ Which is basically kind of the meaning behind the whole show.”

Speaking on the theme of "Street Scene," Etzel summed up the experiences on stage being akin to life itself. Showing that life goes on and the world does not revolve around one person’s life, the ending saw Rose Muarrant, played by Hope Metts, a senior majoring in music, leave her life behind after it fell into shambles. Leaving New York, her actions had very little lasting effects on anyone else except a few, perfectly showing off that life goes on.

The roughly two-and-a-half-hour production ended to a roaring standing ovation from attendees as the cast took the stage one last time to thank all who came.

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