Sinatra to Charlie Brown: A One Night Only Performance
The University of Alabama’s Opera Theatre stole the show with Tuesday night’s One Night Only.
By: Deven Feldstein
One Night Only is an annual showcase of Broadway, pop and jazz performances by UA’s Opera Theatre students. It was a night where the students were able to step out of their comfort zone and sing any genre or song they desired.
When I ventured all the way to Bryant-Jordan Hall, all I had expected to hear was opera. I clearly did not know what I was in for. I was transported into what felt like a 1920s jazz club. The set looked like a cabaret as the performers were seated on stage and would perform seamlessly one after another when it was their turn.
As soon as the lights dimmed and Cheyna Alexander belted a slow and powerful rendition of “One Night Only” from “Dreamgirls,” I was blown away.
“It is part of the One Night Only tradition at UA for one of us to sing the slow version of the song as the opener, and another of us to sing the faster, disco version as the closer of the show,” she said.
The singer is a second year graduate student with a masters of music in vocal performance.
The performers sang everything from classics to songs from musicals such as “Pippin and Ragtime” to pop/rock from artists such as Janis Joplin. The performances as well as the students were incredibly diverse. One minute I heard Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got the World on a String” and the next “My New Philosophy” from “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” There was also a trio who sang a beautiful version of “Dear Theodosia” from “Hamilton.”
Another great theatrical selection was Alexandra Nessi’s performance of “I Had Myself a True Love.” She had the whole audience laughing. Neissi is a sophomore majoring in vocal performance.
“Many shows work very well with classical voices. There are some people in the opera program who actually have no intention of pursuing opera, but wanted to get a classical training before doing musical theatre,” she said. “We all come from such a variety of different places, backgrounds, and mindsets. I think that lends itself very well to the variety of the show.”
For One Night Only, the students only had a couple of weeks to prepare and only one dress rehearsal. Paul Wolf, who is a second year graduate student getting a masters of music in vocal performance, said that the opera program at UA is built so that they can be versatile and marketable as performers. In addition to music, the students have learned acting, dancing, and improvisation.
“Many of the students also take additional classes outside of the program in acting and dance in order to become better performers,” he said.
For this show in particular, the students get to show off a different side of themselves.
“One Night Only is not only special to all of us because it is tradition, but also because we get to showcase different sides of our personality and musical ability,” Alexander said.
What came across the most is how passionate these students are about their craft and also how supportive they are of one another.
“It’s a time to be ourselves and for each and everyone of us to shine,” Nessi said. “I’m always insanely proud of what everyone can do and I love having those moments where I just think wow, these are the amazing people I get to see and love every day. There’s so much pride in each other and in ourselves and One Night Only is a big celebration of what all we can do.”
The lowerclassmen seemed to admire their older classmates and watched in awe of their graduating seniors. But this was also a time for the seniors and graduate students to hear their younger classmates perform.
“I was proud of how well the younger members of the opera department performed, since for many of them this was their first time performing not in an ensemble,” Wolf said.
All of the graduating students were given a red rose and were personally acknowledged and thanked by Director Paul Houghtaling. One Night Only was the last time performing on a UA stage for many of the graduate students and seniors.
“For me, it was special since it marks the last performance I have with many of these people, said Wolf. “It’s a weird feeling since I’ve grown so close to many of these people over the past two years.”
UA’s Opera Theater is performing one last time this year with Scenic Ventures: Student Directed Scenes and One-Acts, a show where they will perform scenes from musical theatre, plays, and opera. The show is this Sunday April, 9 at 3 p.m. in Bryant Jordan Hall. It is free admission. Bravo!