Florida Studio Theatre’s “Das Barbecü” is a campy, energetic parody of Wagner’s epic opera, “Ring Cycle.” Its central concept is the transformation of the labyrinthine plot of the third cycle, “Gotterdammerung,” into a country-Western opus set in Texas, a state notable for excess in all things. The musical, with book and lyrics by Jim Luigs and music by Scott Warrender, is loaded with sitcom-style jokes, laced with risqué innuendo and plentiful in song and dance. It was originally commissioned by Speight Jenkins, the general director of the Seattle Opera, to bring some comic relief and to appeal to the audience of buffs attending the city’s “Ring Festival.” It has since appeared on numerous stages around the country, including Lincoln Center, and perhaps more suitably, Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
The show, directed by Dennis Courtney, is as fast-paced as possible, given that it’s required to sum up an incredibly intricate Wagnerian plot and reduce a cast of 30 down to five incredibly talented and versatile actors. Wotan, the one-eyed god, becomes the horny, wealthy owner of Rancho Gabitch, played by vocally endowed Stephen Hope, who also plays Gunther and Hagen. His wife, wearing a pink Chanel suit and matching boots while gardening, played by Joanna Parson, is as charming as Erda as she is irritating as Fricka. Siegfried (Joshua Carter) rescues Brunhilde (Billie Wildrick) and forthwith complications of the matchmaking variety ensue, ably abetted by Maria Couch as Gutrune.
The country songs range in variety from hoedown, to ballad to conventionally musical. “The Rhinemaiden’s Parody,” in which the three women transform themselves into water ballet dancers, is especially inspired, as is the duet between Wildrick and Couch as they stuff themselves on the wedding banquet.
April Soroko’s costume designs are amusingly hokey, and Rick Eastman-Mullins’ scenery is suitably rustic. The enjoyable musical direction is by Jeff Halpern, and the lively choreography is by Stephen Hope.
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