Thanks to a famously anonymous writing team, volunteer (but far from amateur) directors Catherine Donovan and Jonah Winn-Lenetsky, music director Charles Tichenor and a diverse cast, the Melodrama continues to delight audiences for yet another Fiesta season, interrupted only by the Burned One on September 6.
Last year's show was a bit weak, due primarily to a late script and a scramble for an invitation-only cast. It required some late-night striptease, some four letter words, local "star" cameos and a media advertising blitz to draw a crowd; a valiant and virtuous effort nonetheless. But now the preliminaries are on time, on track and the show promises to be the full-on Santa Fe roast audiences have come to expect from the Playhouse. Few Santa Fe institutions escape the heat, including The Reporter. And, with character names like Chuck Hooker, E Norman Pecker and Suze Hanna Texicana, it has to be good.
Melodrama refers to a musical drama. It was developed in France in the mid- to late-1700s, culminating most notably in Rousseau's Pygmalion in 1770, then moving on to Germany and Austria in various operettas. There has always been a trading off of music with dialogue. The theatrical form of melodrama traditionally includes a hero, heroine (the hero's love interest), villain (who covets said heroine) and villain's sidekick (played, this year, by buxom beauties). There is a dastardly plot that is typically foiled in the end. Over the decades it has evolved to include exaggerated acting to the point of absurdity, making the genre typically more comic today than its earlier dramatic form.
The local version began at The Playhouse in 1922 with The Santa Fe Players, of which Will Shuster, Zozobra's creator, was a member (hence the recurring Melodrama-Zozobra themes). It followed a fairly traditional form until the 1950s when the content became geared toward a satire of local politics and culture (kind of like this column). Ninety years later, the latest cast—rife with veterans and rookies—picks up the gauntlet, carrying it forward into this young century's melodramatic future.
This "hysterical, historical skewering" contains some seriously untraditional and unexpected twists (hint: think current civil rights issue). Notable are original songs, as well as parodies, composed by local musicians who shall also remain nameless. Full schedule is available here. More info on the website as opening night doth approach.
And did I mention that I will play the role of the hero? Not that I'm biased.