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Gian Carlo Menotti wrote his one-act comic opera The Old Maid and the Thief for the radio, so it's completely in keeping for Opera in the Rock to stage it as a radio play, complete with live sound effects and three commercial breaks.

The opera company provides a quartet of fine voices with considerable experience and stage presence for The Old Maid and the Thief: A 1939 Radio Hour, which debuted Friday night at Little Rock's Studio Theatre.

Both spinster Miss Todd (mezzo-soprano Diane Kesling) and her housemaid, Laetitia (soprano Shannon Rookey), become besotted with charming vagabond Bob (baritone Ron Jensen-McDaniel), whom they are mistakenly led to believe is an escaped thief and murderer, and to support him they even turn to a life of crime.

Considering that this is a radio play, an enormous amount of the production's appeal rests on the ability of the performers to mug; Rookey and Jensen-McDaniel are good at it, but veteran opera stars Kesling and soprano Christine Donahue, who sings the role of her friend, gossipy Miss Pinkerton, are experts. Kesling also gets a nice bit with a dog and Rookey and Jensen-McDaniel each get an aria.

Jensen-McDaniel has pride of commercial place crooning an ode to an area salon, one of three sponsors who get their own house-crafted radio ads; "station personnel" Kevin Lambert (also the announcer/MC) and Sarah Stankiewicz Dailey and pianist-composer-music director John Willis "pitch" in as well.

As stage director, Lambert manages to avoid "static" with considerable stage movement. The opera is in the original English with piano and percussion accompaniment; the percussionist doubles as sound-effects man.

The production repeats at 7:30 p.m. today and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Studio Theatre, 320 W. Seventh St. Ticket information is available at centralarkansastickets.com or oitr.org.

Metro on 08/24/2019

Print Headline: Operatic Old Maid 'steals' claps, laughs

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