Being on the stage of the Civic Opera House in Chicago is not an experience I expected, but I have now been up there twice this year. The first was to take the Lyric Opera tour last February. Since many public buildings now give tours, it is not a rare privilege, but it was a great tour. On Sunday night I returned for a less likely event, The Second Guide Guide to the Opera, a melding of talent from two famous Chicago institutions from very different pages of the weekly entertainment guide.
Bonnie, our mastermind of fun, told me that the audience would sit on the stage, but I had not grasped the meaning of this detail. I just expected folding chairs around the performance area. To my surprise, the stage was turned into a comedy club just like the Second City home. We sat in cafe chairs around a little table, while some people who paid top price had couches or easy chairs. Our party of four ordered drinks, a hummus plate, and a cheese and cracker platter. I tried to spread crumbly cheese on a fragile cracker and littered the floor of the stage of the Civic Opera House! They'll never ask me back.
On reflection, I see that a joint Second City-Lyric Opera venture is a logical merger. Both comics and opera singers find themselves in ridiculous situations. They also share a love of outrageous costumes. We only knew the actual opera singers because they each sang solos. I especially enjoyed Bernard Holcolm singing a piece from the American opera A View from the Bridge.
Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune reviewed the revue, indicating that he wanted a bit more edge to the performance. He thought the comics were really too kind to the hosting institution. I enjoyed the performance just as it was and laughed heartily. My favorite section was the improv opera based on the lives of a couple from the audience.
The Second City Guide to the Opera runs through the month. The website video for the production shows the original one-time show with a mostly different cast in more formal attire playing to the real theater, unlike what is running this summer. No Patrick Stewart or Rene Fleming this month. Still, the songs and stunts are the same. Get your tickets soon.