Italian renaissance musical ‘The Glorious Ones' comes to Westminster
Set during the Italian renaissance, "The Glorious Ones" follows a down-and-out troupe of street performers looking for their shot to perform in the Italian courts. Director Joanna Syiek brings the Flaherty and Ahrens musical to the Rose Center Theater in Westminster beginning Wednesday.
"'The Glorious Ones' answers the question of why creatives want to create and what's the point," Syiek says. "What are the artists trying to leave behind when they do something like that?"
The musical takes place during the not-so-modest beginnings of commedia dell'arte, a comedic style that gave rise to the contemporary clown, the term "slapstick," and a character on England's classic puppet program, the "Punch and Judy Show."
"Commedia dell'arte made way for everything we've seen and grown up with comedy-wise," Syiek explains. "You'll see some of the traditional improv stuff and how it's translated into Charlie Chaplin and I Love Lucy."
The ensemble cast includes Kyle Selig, winner of the National High School Musical Theater Awards in 2010. Now a musical theater student at Carnegie Mellon University, Selig plays Francesco, a young member of the troupe that gives leader Flambinio a run for his money.
"The role that I'm playing is based on the servant, the acrobat, the clown," he says.
Director Syiek says the audience can expect to see traditional commedia dell'arte physicality in Selig's performance. "He's not afraid to somersault across the stage," she warns jokingly.
"I'm doing crazy things," Selig says. "I juggle. I do lots of turns and little flips. The whole show's very physical, not just on my part."
Though a large portion of the musical is dedicated to this type of body comedy, "The Glorious Ones" is not without its fair share of tragedy, according to Syiek, who says that power struggles, love affairs and arguments abound once the curtain drops.
"You'll see the backstage relationships and how they take them onto the stage with them even when they're not supposed to," Syiek says of the cast of archetypal characters traditionally included in commedia dell'arte.
A power struggle between Francesco and leader Flambinio and a love triangle including Flambinio's faithful lover Columbina and ex-nun Armanda are just a couple of the tragic elements audiences can expect to see. "There are a number of different strings overlapping in terms of the relationships which is really fun," she explains.
Complicated or not, Syiek is happy to direct the show, which debuted at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York in 2007. "I fell in love. I thought it was a beautiful retelling of why we live, why we try to do what we do, why we try to get by each day," she says.
"'The Glorious Ones' is a show that's being put on by a group of people that enjoy being together, enjoy doing theater," adds actor Selig, "and we invite the audience to come share in that."