'Most Happy Fella' star gets to belt out words, too, in dialogue-heavy opera
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, February 24, 2013
2/24/13 at 4:40 AM
As Tony in "The Most Happy Fella," Kim Josephson gets to do something on stage that he has seldom done before: talk.
"It's really a treat to be able to play with, and enjoy, the rhythm of the words for the words' own sake, without having to worry about musical bar lines," Josephson said, laughing. "In opera, you rarely have the freedom to find your own way in the words - everything is dictated by the music, which is how it should be.
"So it's been a lot of fun to be able to play with the dialogue in this show," he said. "And there's PLENTY of dialogue."
Josephson is heading the cast of Tulsa Opera's production of "The Most Happy Fella," the Frank Loesser musical that in the years since its Broadway debut in 1954 has increasingly found its home in opera houses.
Based on Sidney Howard's play "They Knew What They Wanted," the musical is at heart a romantic triangle that involves Tony, an aging Italian immigrant who owns a successful vineyard in California, who has fallen in love with a waitress he calls Rosabella. To convince her to come to Napa Valley, Tony sends her a photograph of his younger, handsome foreman Joe.
Once Rosabella arrives, Tony's deception comes to light, and a series of romantic complications ensue, as attractions and emotions become tangled.
Tulsa Opera's cast includes Katrina Thurman as Rosabella, Christopher Feigum as Joe, Cindy Sadler as Marie, Alissa Anderson as Cleo, Curt Olds as Herman, Zachary Engle as Giuseppe and Alexander Elliott as the Postman.
The production is directed by Dorothy Danner, with Tulsa Opera artistic director Kostis Protopapas conducting the Tulsa Opera Orchestra.
For Josephson, who is a professor of voice at the University of Oklahoma and starred in Tulsa Opera productions of "Rigoletto" and "Il Trovatore" in the past, Tony "is a dream role."
"I remembering seeing one of my mentors, Louis Quilico, who was one of the great Rigolettos of our time, do 'The Most Happy Fella' with New York City Opera," Josephson said. "And I knew it was something I wanted to do, because it seemed like a natural extension of where I have been in my career."
In recent years, Josephson has won acclaim for his performances in contemporary operas, including William Bolcom's operatic version of "A View from the Bridge," Andre Previn's "Brief Encounter," and "Seance on a Wet Afternoon," composed by Stephen Schwartz, best known for hit musicals "Wicked," "Pippin" and "Godspell."
"This show is truly a hybrid - it's a musical that requires big voices," Josephson said. "Tony's a big character. Even though the whole plot revolves around a lie, Tony is an honest fellow. His emotions are honest - his feelings may be simple, but they are real and very deeply felt. That's what makes this role so great and so much fun to do. He's a character who lives as large as you dare to allow him."
Josephson has been more selective about the roles he performs in recent years, because of his commitment to teaching at OU, where he works with "everyone from freshmen to graduate students."
"Teaching is very important to me, because no one makes a career by himself," he said. "I've been helped in my career by a lot of wonderful people - Louis Quilico, Franco Corelli, Jerome Hines, some of the greatest singers of the 20th century.
"So in a way, I'm something of a bridge between that generation and the next," he said. "If I don't share what has been given to me, it's going to be lost. And OU is very good about having people who are still active in the art form."
Josephson said he's also enjoyed working with the cast of "The Most Happy Fella."
"I'm watching all these young people in the cast, and all the energy they bring to everything they do," he said, laughing. "And I remember how I was at that time. I've been in this business for 35 years, but being around them makes me think it was just yesterday I was acting the same way. But that 'yesterday' was a long time ago."
‘THE MOST HAPPY FELLA,’ PRESENTED BY TULSA OPERA
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Chapman Music Hall, Tulsa
PAC, 101 E. Third St.
Tickets: $54-$98. 918-596-7111,
Original Print Headline: 'Dream role'
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
Kim Josephson (center) is surrounded by the Tulsa Opera cast of "The Most Happy Fella" during dress rehearsal at the Tulsa PAC. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Cast members rehearse a scene from "The Most Happy Fella," a musical set at a Napa Valley vineyard. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Christopher Feigum (left) as Joe and Kim Josephson as Tony star in Tulsa Opera's "The Most Happy Fella." JAMES GIBBARD/ Tulsa World