Light Opera Works will present “Hollywood’s Greatest Song Hits,” a musical revue, Oct. 2 through 11. This concert performance, directed and choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller, focuses on historical hits from films such as “Casablanca” and “Titanic”.
The all-female cast features Light Opera Works favorites. Alicia Berneche has been a part of Light Opera Works productions such as “The Music Man,” “Iolanthe,” and “Operetta’s Greatest Hits.” Berneche has also starred in operas around the globe, including Lyric Opera.
An Evanston native and performer intimately familiar with the company, Alicia Berneche spoke with Evanston Now about her work.
What classic songs will you be performing for the production of “Hollywood’s Greatest Song Hits”- and which is your favorite?
It’s amazing, we are doing music from- not the beginning of movies, but we’re going from the 30’s to the late 90’s. It’s really everything you can think of. I’m singing “As Time Goes By,” the Titanic theme, medleys of 60’s songs, three James Bond songs…
If I had to pick to pick my favorite, I’m in love with this new song from “The Umbrellas of Cherebourg,” originally in French. The entire movie was sung, all in French. Sinatra sang it, Connie Francis did a version…I love it, it’s kind of like an Edith Piaf song. You have your favorites going in, but something new, it excites you.
What’s different about this show?
It’s a vague title, but there’s tons of movement! Over 40 songs in the show.
Last night we danced for five hours. Rudy is an amazing choreographer and he has movement in his soul. The thought for him of nobody dancing in his show would kill his soul.
He has a way of encapsulating the movement of the time period. It’s grace personified for “As Time Goes By.” In a 40’s song, there’s full-on dancing.
Can you tell me about your upcoming production of your own opera, “Thank You, Next”?
I have another company with a familial relationship– Milwaukee Opera Theatre, I’ve done 17 years singing in Milwaukee. My friend who runs it said, “let’s do a new project. Let’s start thinking about something for you!” Well…I’m a poet. Brought her some depressing ideas and she saw something in it.
The complete libretto came out of me so quickly, I knew everyone in the show so intimately. It’s set in the hall of an audition room in New York City, and in real time, you hear the auditions in the rehearsal room and what’s in the hallway, woven together. You then hear arias of what’s going on in their lives, as asides. You find out what their real lives are.
We’re really proud of it, and it seems to have emotional resonance. It opens June 23rd, 2016, in Milwaukee.
What have been some of the most memorable moments of working at Light Opera Works?
It’s a testament to Rudy; this will be my fifteenth year working for Light Opera Works. He keeps employing “old folks”, he keeps bringing us back; there’s this idea of family.
During “The Music Man,” we come out of rehearsal and we’re snowed in. But it became this big party, where we cleaned off the cars and danced! He knows how to cast good people who celebrate each other. We have such a great time with Rudy just putting everything together. He’s dependable and brings us back.
On this show we are having the best time…super tight four part harmony. It’s just girlfriends hanging out! But it’s not an estrogen fest. The voices are so different in the show! We have ranges- from me, floaty high, to basically a baritone. There’s so much variety, so it’s not going to be one-note. So many layers. It’s thrilling to hear the harmony. Not all parts written for women, either- the ballads are for women, but the rest, anything goes.
What’s cool about the theatre scene now?
In the 90’s there was so much money, you could afford to have an attitude of elitism and exclusion, but now there’s just not the money for companies, so you have to do it for the love of it. You have to rely on your talented people even though the money isn’t what it used to be. The companies that are surviving are family oriented; you have to find the joy in it for the people doing it.
Tickets for “Hollywood’s Greatest Song Hits” are available at LightOperaWorks.com or on the phone at 847.920.5360.