THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Student Prince’ @ Ohio Light Opera by LisaDeBenedictis

Through Thu 8/10

The story of  The Student Prince, now running in repertory at Ohio Light Opera in Wooster, opens with the king’s people attempting to micromanage the young prince’s upcoming year as a student. Prince Karl Franz, played with enthusiasm by Grant Knox, is protected by his mentor and tutor Doctor Engle, performed by Boyd Mackus, who wants the prince to experience the freedom and independence he had at his alma mater, Heidelberg. The prince insists that the two go to check it out.

The two are preceded to Heidelberg by the prince’s two disapproving valets Lutz and Hubert (performed with comedic wit by Daniel Neer and Cody Carlson) where they are introduced to innkeeper Ruder, the students who frequent the pub and Ruder’s niece Kathie.  The prince arrives incognito and is at once smitten with Kathie and with the student’s life and joy de vivre.

The second act finds the prince and his friends and Doctor Engle enjoying student life, and the prince and Kathie deeply in love. Prince Franz receives a surprise visit from his arranged bride-to-be Princess Margaret and her mother; the two exchange strained pleasantries but Prince Franz’ heart longs only for Kathie. The two plan to elope to Paris but are stopped by the news that the king is on his deathbed and has summoned for the student Prince to return home. The prince resists but Doctor Engel and Count Von Mark remind him his duty to his kingdom. Prince Karl Franz reluctantly agrees to obey the king’s command. He promises Kathie that he will return soon.

Act three opens nearly two years since Prince Karl Franz return to the Kingdom of Karlsberg. He is now King Karl Franz and still betrothed to Princess Margret who secretly loves another. The princess knows that Karl Franz pines for an old love, and she has heard rumors that in Heidelberg, he fell in love with a tavernkeeper’s niece.

Word arrives from Heidelberg that Doctor Engel has died. Karl Franz is determined to visit his beloved Heidelberg for a brief reunion with his old friends and Kathie. Princess Margaret goes to Heidelberg first, and secretly visits Kathie. Margaret persuades her that for the good of the kingdom, she must break off her romance with Karl Franz. They agree that Kathie will tell Karl Franz she is in love with another man and is going to marry him. Karl Franz resolves to marry Margaret but Kathie will always be his true love.

Steven Daigle directs the piece eloquently. He does a great job of capturing young romance and innocence of the operetta’s leads while keeping the audience engaged in plot but entertained by the exuberance of the student’s of Heidelberg. Boyd Mackus as Doctor Engel is standout as confidant who truly loves the prince and understands his obligations and liabilities. Gillian Hollis as Kathie and Grace Caudle as Princess Margaret entrance the audience with their sincerity, loyalty and love. The cast is at once high- spirited and sincere.

The choreography by Spencer Reese is cheery; the set design and costumes by Daniel Hobbs and Mark Snyder are top-notch and the Ohio Light Orchestra is praiseworthy conducted in this performance by J. Lynn Thompson.

Ohio Light Opera

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