Don't miss: The Chocolate Soldier Gregory Finney and Eugenia Dermentzis in The Chocolate Soldier, Toronto Operetta Theatre, 2017. Photo: Gary Beechey.

Don't miss: The Chocolate Soldier

Jenna Simeonov

Running until April 30, Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Soldier is the latest offering of beautiful tunes and charming humour from Toronto Operetta Theatre. With lots of soul from the pit, Peter Tiefenbach leads singers and orchestra through the operetta based on the play by George Bernard Shaw, with a score full of next-door exoticism befitting of a tale set in 19th-century Bulgaria.

Michael Nyby as Bumerli in The Chocolate Soldier, Toronto Operetta Theatre, 2017. Photo by Gary Beechey.

We were lucky to catch the final dress rehearsal of The Chocolate Soldier, a piece new to us, and cast with strong Canadian singers. Michael Nyby is a strapping Bumerli, the Swiss soldier who unapologetically finds safety in an enemy home (strictly speaking); his wry smile and cavalier stride across the stage work beautifully with his healthy baritone, which extends impressively up into tenor-dom. Jennifer Taverner is a sweet Nadina Popoff, the Bulgarian girl who covers for Bumerli, making adorable attempts at holding her own next to the bold Swiss visitor. Her sound is warm, even naïve, and to catch her in a lead role seems an overdue treat.

Jennifer Taverner as Nadina Popoff in The Chocolate Soldier, Toronto Operetta Theatre, 2017. Photo by Gary Beechey.

If the central love story doesn’t entice you, go for the brilliant performances in the supporting cast. Mezzo-soprano Eugenia Dermentzis is a scene-stealer as Aurelia, her face an exaggerated picture of uppity, bewildered, and scheming; even with her polished mezzo, her presence onstage is something delightfully out of a Pixar film. Plus, The Chocolate Soldier is a beautiful chance to catch Schmopera’s own Gregory Finney onstage as the patriarch Popoff. In a handful of magnetic scenes, Finney manages to secure himself a catchphrase, some catchy tunes, and a hilarious air of and elderly gentleman who lovingly blusters and bumbles.

Go for the melodies, the comedy, and the standout performances by some of Canada’s most exciting talent.

The Chocolate Soldier, directed by Toronto Operetta Theatre’s Guillermo Silva-Marin, runs at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts until April 30, 2017. For ticket information, click right here.

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