By Len La Rocca
In a chaotic bar full of people looking for love, eligible bachelors and romance, everyone was scrambling to find their next successful date. TCNJ Lyric Theatre captured this moment of lust and ambition through its performance of composer Michael Ching’s comedic operetta, “Speed Dating Tonight!,” which was complete with vibrant characters and breathtaking singing on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, 27 at 8 p.m. in the Don Evans Black Box Theater.
The operetta, a short opera with a humorous theme and light dialogue, documented the anxieties of single people looking for love while also providing entertainment through opera singing, acting and clarinet and piano playing.
The lightheartedness of the speed dating plot dismantled the audience’s preconceived notions that opera is intimidating and ancient.
The scene for the operetta was set in Joe’s Bar, where a speed dating night was full swing. Daters of various ages came together in fiveminute intervals and shared their stories in hopes of landing a second date.
One of the bachelors, played by sophomore music education major Joseph Rippert, leaned in for an unsolicited kiss before being rejected, a scene which shed light on the discomfort of dating culture.
Things got interesting when another bachelor character, played by Union County College student Jason Muldowney, ran into his ex, who was played by Courtney Woods, a senior music education major. This encounter added tension to the plot, which was portrayed through the pair angrily belting their lines in high-pitched tones.
Another pair of guests spent the entire event looking down at their phones, which ultimately caused them to bump into each other. When they realized they “shared the same obsession,” they sang a duet about virtual relationships.
“You don’t care that I love my phone,” the couple sang together as their devices remained an inch away from their faces.
Even the bartender and the waitress in Joe’s Bar ended up hitting it off and was making plans for a date by the end of the show.
The audience left the theater pleased with TCNJ Lyric Theatre’s memorable and entertaining contemporary take on opera.
“It was a really good performance,” said Natoli Lamendola, a freshman history major. “It was an interesting take on this whole speed dating thing … ”
The speed dating coordinator, Alyse Watson, a senior early childhood education and music dual major, gave some parting advice to the participants. She stressed that worrying too much about their dating lives takes the fun away from the process of meeting new people. “Enjoy the process,” she sang. “Enjoy the view.”