The Second City Guide to the Opera, the groundbreaking collaboration by Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Second City, won Jeff Awards for Best Production: Revue and Best Director: Revue during the 45th annual Jeff Equity Awards gala on Monday. The ceremony took place at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. “This is the first time Lyric Opera of Chicago has been nominated, and to win this prestigious award is truly thrilling,” said Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director.
The Jeff Awards are billed as “a celebration of excellence in Chicago theatre” and have honored outstanding theater artists annually since 1968. During the 2012-13 season, Jeff Awards judges attended opening nights of 143 Equity productions offered by 52 producing organizations. From these openings, 109 productions were “Jeff Recommended” and eligible for award nominations, resulting in 166 nominations in 36 categories.
The Second City Guide to the Opera premiered in a sold-out, one-night-only performance in the Civic Opera House on January 5, 2013. Lyric Opera creative consultant Renée Fleming had the idea to bring together the world-renowned comedy troupe and opera company, both legendary Chicago institutions, to see what kinds of creative sparks might fly. “This unexpected mash-up of opera and sketch comedy was a great way to show die-hard opera fans – and new audiences – a fun side of our centuries-old art form,” said Fleming.
The resulting revue-style show featured opera-themed comedic sketches performed by ensemble members of The Second City and The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, with Fleming and legendary stage and screen actor Sir Patrick Stewart sharing emcee duties and appearing in sketches and satirical vignettes. Lyric Opera Orchestra musicians and revue music director Jesse Case (music director for The Second City e.t.c.) provided accompaniment. Case, Tim Sniffen, and Kate James wrote the material; The Second City’s Billy Bungeroth directed, and TSC’s Kelly Leonard was executive producer.
The resounding success of the January performance led to a month-long run of cabaret-style performances May 31-June 30, with audience and performers onstage at the Civic Opera House. It was this 23-show run (including new material) that was seen by Jeff-Award judges.
Performers for the extended run were Second City ensemble members Joey Bland*, Molly Brennan, Lilli-Anne Brown, Beth Melewski*, Tim Ryder, and Timothy Sniffen*. Billy Bungeroth* was director, Jesse Case* was music director and writer, and Kate James* and Timothy Sniffen* were writers. Singers from Lyric were mezzo-soprano Lauren Curnow and tenor Bernard Holcomb*, both former members of the Ryan Opera Center. (*participated in the January show) Musicians for the early-summer shows were Jesse Case/piano and guitar, John Macfarlane/violin, and Laura Deming/cello (both members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra).
The Second City Guide to the Opera is a project of Lyric Unlimited, a multifaceted program of expanded community engagement and artistic initiatives.
All performances of The Second City Guide to the Opera were sponsored by PNC Bank.
For more information on the Jeff Awards, click here.
For more information on Joseph Jefferson III, the 19th-century actor for whom the awards are named, click here.