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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

BAM! POW! Quirky “Fortuna” hits the stage

"Fortuna" embraces its sillyness, making for a wonderful performance. Photo courtesy of Mark Frohna.

It’s 2012, and superheroes are kind of a big deal. Later this year, Hollywood has a few high-profile, action-packed movies set to leap from the pages of comic books onto the silver screen.

But if you don’t want to wait that long, fear not. The Alchemist Theatre in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood and the Milwaukee Opera Theatre are keeping audiences occupied with their own twist on the superhero genre: “Fortuna the Time Bender vs. the Schoolgirls of Doom.”

“Fortuna” is a superhero-themed opera written by Jason Powell and co-directed by Powell and Jill Anna Ponasik, artistic director of the Milwaukee Opera Theatre.

According to the composer’s notes, Powell’s initial ideas for his first opera were leaning towards a more serious and artistic rendition of Greek mythology or a Native American fable. Somehow, a time-bending heroine and her equally strange adversaries became the finished product.

Running at the Alchemist since Jan. 15 and playing sold out shows until Jan. 29, “Fortuna” follows the story of a dreamer named Joe, and his quest to find his own supernatural abilities. Joe resides in the town of Anyville, a place where crime has been wiped out thanks to Fortuna, a spandex-wearing superhero with the ability to slow down time and literally stop criminals in their tracks.

All is well until the Headmaster, a very evil and very British mastermind, decides to bring his reign of terror and diabolical schemes to quiet Anyville. The Headmaster is accompanied by his Schoolgirls of Doom — three equally evil, although slightly less British, ladies in skirts who pack ray guns in their holsters.

Ignoring the slight concerns from Joe’s girlfriend Elizabeth, Fortuna takes the slacker under her wing in order to defeat the Headmaster and bring peace to Anyville once again.

“Fortuna” is campy, but that’s what you should expect when you mix opera and superheroes together. “Fortuna” works because it recognizes this and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The cast embraces all the corny moments and uses that to their advantage.

The stage in the Alchemist is small, probably working best for intimate shows that require a lot of focus from the audience. But superheroes are larger than life, so making use of every aspect of the space becomes an important part of the show. There are even times when the actors run into the crowd or climb up on a table, keeping the show’s energy up and holding the audience’s attention. The constant movement and liveliness from the cast made audiences forget how tiny the stage actually is.

Little things sprinkled into “Fortuna” make the show clever and eccentric. For instance, the Headmaster turned to a life of crime because his degree in philosophy couldn’t get him a job. Maybe a bit offensive to philosophy majors, but the audience seemed to enjoy it.

Another example is Fortuna’s weakness for the Neapolitan chord, a harmony that leaves her powerless. Not that farfetched, considering it’s a superhero opera, but the chord is still quite an unusual choice for a caped crusader’s flaw.

Since “Fortuna” is an opera, the music contributes a great amount to the story. With simply a piano accompaniment, the cast sings about 20 different songs. The music isn’t as dynamic as a rock opera like “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “Tommy,” but it works perfectly for the small setting and comical acting. All of the cast members have great voices that harmonize and work well with the acoustics of the Alchemist.

Overall, “Fortuna” knows it’s a little silly, but there are no rules that say a superhero opera has to be dark and serious. “Fortuna” is a show that can entertain kids and adults alike with quirky humor and solid music direction.

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