‘The Red Mill’ draws deserved attention to community theater, Victor Herbert


From the Victorian Lyric Opera Company's production of "Red Mill." (Harvey Levine)
June 10, 2013

Community theater is truly all about community. Between directors, cast, crew, musicians, publicity, hospitality and fundraising, there’s a place for everyone, and it’s not uncommon to see several generations of a family working in a production, with more in the audience. The stress of it all bonds the theater family together in a way that few other communal activities can. And this bond helps when turnout is disappointing; everyone’s efforts are as much as for each another and the shared accomplishment as they are for an audience.

These ruminations came to mind at Friday’s performance by the Victorian Lyric Opera Company of “The Red Mill” by Victor Herbert, the second night of a two-week run (through June 16) at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville. The effort put forth onstage, including delightfully elaborate set and costumes, deserves more community support; there were more people working the show than attending.

Herbert was an Irish-born cellist and composer whose operettas (including “Naughty Marietta” and “Babes in Toyland”) once rivaled Gilbert and Sullivan’s in popularity. He wrote for Broadway and the Met, making little distinction between the two. “The Red Mill” has an overly complex book — the work ends before several potential love connections are resolved, and there is a ghost story on the side that makes no sense — but the music is vibrant and charming. The large cast sings, dances, mugs and even juggles with warmth and enjoyment (regardless of skill), ticket prices are reasonable and the sense of group effort — everyone pulling together and supporting each other — exceeds that of many professional shows.

Battey is a freelance writer.

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