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Amahl and the Night Visitors and The Toy Shop

Bloomington Music Works has a double bill of seasonal offerings with "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and "The Toy Shop." There's familiar and something at least 'newish'at the John Waldron Arts Center. The familiar is Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." The magic tale of the crippled shepherd boy and his mother who meet the three kings is a holiday favorite. In Sunday afternoon's cast, Crystal Jarrell was both desperately commanding and warmly supportive as Amahl's mother. David Hale, Jason Plourde and Mark Shapman were the kings. Jason Plourde as Melchior did a fine job with most of their solo work. David Hale was august as the blind Balthazar and Mark Schapman genuinely funny as the nearly deaf Kasper. The part of Amahl is demanding dramatically and vocally. It's a wide-ranging part. McCarry Reynolds' voice is lovely, but definitely stronger in some registers than others. To his credit, he always kept the focus on his words. Director Brian Samarzea led the production from the piano.

The 'newish' piece is "The Toy Shop" by Seymour Barab. In addition to being a composer, Barab was for many years a cellist with the Indianapolis Orchestra. His setting of "Little Red Riding Hood" is one of the most performed operas in America. Unlike "Amahl…," "The Toyshop" is actually an opera for children. It's a little like the pieces that Mr. Rogers used to stage with John Reardon. Sunday afternoon's Toymaker, Adam Cioffari, comes right out and sings to the audience about the joy in his life and introduces his prize creations Pauline, Natalie Ford, and Paul, Rachael Lubbers. Later, the comic villain, stage magician Agnes Blunder, Sarah Jensvold, appears ready to steal them away. Agnes also spoke directly to the house. Like the story of Pinocchio, the puppets are tempted by life in the big world. But the Toymaker's love converts the wicked Agnes and turns the puppets into real children. Direction was by Sarah Daughtrey with Gabi Teodoru at the piano.

Bloomington Music Works production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and "The Toy Shop" continues upstairs at the John Waldron Arts Center Friday at seven and Saturday at two and seven.

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