Minnesota Fringe Festival 2011

My Fringe

Super Spectacular!: To Opera with Love

The Donovan Ensemble

From Union City, NJ

Created by Jonathan Niel and Joe Kolbow

Producer's website

Musical Theater, Comedy

For ages 7+

MN FRINGE ENCORE WINNER! Extra chance to see the show on Sunday at 8:30

“Genius. Absolutely gorgeous voices.” Twin Cities Daily Planet
“...silly good fun for people who love opera. Maybe more so for people who hate opera.” Pioneer Press
“...clever physical comedy.” Star Tribune

This 60 minute comedy just completed a hit run at the Kansas City Fringe Festival this July where it won "Best of the Fringe" and was called, “A very funny show,” by The Kansas City Star and, “a joyous romp that will have you smiling and singing long after you leave the theatre.”by KCMetropolis.org.

A has-been/never-was actor and his sidekick reinvent classic operas including "La Boheme", "Madama Butterfly" and "Carmen" by injecting Puccini, Guns N' Roses, Taylor Swift and more.
Merril and Emmet at leisure

Former Minneapolitans Jonathan Niel and Joe Kolbow will present Super Spectacular! To Opera with Love an hour of absurdly re-imagined 7 minute grand operas. They credit their time in Minnesota for much of the piece’s inspiration.

Emmet tickles the ivories while Merril prepares for the big show
The duo, who moved to the NYC area together in 2004, are co-artistic directors of The Donovan Ensemble which created the show and also brought Kolbow’s one person show Lutherans Gone Wild!!! to the MN Fringe in 2006.
Merril and Emmet tinker in the worshop
While living in Minneapolis, both actors performed with The Minnesota Opera. Niel appeared in several of the classics featured in the show including La Boheme, Aida and Madama Butterfly while performing there both in featured roles and as a seven year member of the chorus.

Merril relaxing with a round of golf

The idea for the show came when they studied in Paris on the recommendation of a friend who performed with Niel in Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s Magic Flute. Their teacher, internationally renowned clown Philippe Gaulier was a disciple of Jaques Lecoq and taught several of the Jeune Lune company members as well as Sacha Baron Cohen and Emma Thompson.

Performing daily chores

Niel’s work with Chanhassen Dinner Theater and MN dance troupes such as Shawn Mcconnelogue and Joe Chvala’s Flying Foot Forum prepared him well for Emmet, who is quite a hoofer.
Out in the fields

Joe Kolbow
is co-artistic director of The Donovan Ensemble, based in Union City, NJ. Joe created Merril Garrick for their last show Super Spectacular! Stage credits include Tina Howe's NY premiere of Skin Deep at 59E59, The Minnesota Opera, The Illusion Theater, The History Theater and The Alabama Shakespeare Festival: Arcadia (Valentine), Comedy of Errors (Antipholus of Syracuse) Macbeth (Lennox). MFA: U of A / Alabama Shakespeare Festival, BA: St. Olaf College. Additional training includes The Actor's Center and The Wynn Handman Studio in NYC as well as Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris.

Jonathan Niel
is co-artistic director of The Donovan Ensemble and created the role of Emmet in Super Spectacular!. Jonathan sang seven seasons with The Minnesota Opera, danced his way to Central America performing with dance-theater troupe Shawn McConneloug and Her Orchestra, hoofed his way to Boston tapping with Joe Chvala and His Flying Foot Forum and holds a B.A. from Centenary College of Louisiana an M.A. in Theater /Speech from Louisiana Tech University. Johnnie also studied at Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris. Jonathan has performed at Theater de la Jeune Lune, Chanhassen Dinner Theater, Nautilus, The History Theater, Eye of the Storm, Theater Latté Da,The Illusion Theater, North Star Opera and Park Square Theater.

Deanna Fleysher
Deanna Fleysher is a teacher and clown. As an improviser, she has performed at the UCB, PIT and Magnet, created “Kill Me Loudly” “Foreplay” and “Echo”. As a clown, she has studied with many luminaries including Eric Davis, Giovanni Fusetti, Sue Morrison, Chris Bays and Bob Berky. She trained as an actor at Amherst College and in the world.

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worth the wait
by Mark Browning Milner Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
these guys worked the lines hard all week (in costume no less), but when i went to see 'em saturday they were sold out (fair play to yeh!), so i was glad they got the encore. well deserved, as this was inspired silliness.

Time To Say Goodbye
by Kale Ganann Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
This was our Encore, and it was a great choice. Funny, high-energy, and it even ends on a farewell number, Super Spectacular!: To Opera with Love was a delightful finish to a great run. Well done to the Donovan Ensemble, and will be well remembered by my wife and I. Time to say goodbye, indeed. Until next year, Fringers!

Best show I've been to
by Donovan Walker Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Excellent show, singing, dancing, classic and not-so-classic wonderfulness.

It makes me happy!

Opera Purists Beware!
by Sue Ann Guildermann Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Niel & Kolbow are our present day Gilbert & Sullivan. Irreverent, silly, bawdy with beautiful voices. A real delight.

Campy operatic fun-fest
by Fringivitis Vulgaris Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
These guys are talented singers of opera AND they know pop music! The costumes are silly, their knowledge of operatic tropes is extensive, and their willingness to play with the audience make this a jolly show. Bravo!

Deserving of the encore!
by Kenneth Hanf Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
A brilliant comedic and musical production. Great voices. Great comedy. Great incorporation of a wide variety of musical styles and eras. Someone worked overtime to find the music and write the fitting lyrics.

See the encore if you can.

by Mickey Foley Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Messrs. Niel and Kolbow are brilliant comedians, whether climbing chairs into the audience or weaving pop songs of the past 30 years into the plots of classic operas. Their capture of the crowd was complete and hardly wavered throughout the show. Here's hoping they continue to bring joy into our lives for years to come.

This wasn't even close to opera
by Katherine Dugarm Follow this reviewer
Rating 1 kitty
Synopses of some operas. Popular songs to help tell the story of opera. Cute interactions between the performers.

I was disappointed.

But I don’t like Opera
by Perry Smaglik Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This show was hysterical… The audience participation was very fun
I showed up at the show tired and left wide awake and a little afraid after the love triangle scene.

Tragicomic genius
by Matt Prindle Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
These guys brilliantly walk the line between reverent and irreverent. The show is fun, farcical, hilarious and absurd (the opera characters refer to their tragic relationships as "dating"), but they still manage to respect the story and the heart of these operas they're frantically synopsizing. And their singing voices are AMAZING. Definitely recommend.

by Kate LeRoy Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
A fantastic twist on opera that will keep you laughing for the entire hour.

See this Show!
by barbara meyer Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Super Spectacular! is appropriately named; this show is off the charts! These guys are so talented, funny, energetic, smart, and completely engaging at all times. If you want a guaranteed rousing good time, this is the performance for you!

Even if you hate opera, GO!
by Alan Berry Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I hate the opera, but loved this show. Joe and Jonathan work great together. VERY funny! I'm not sure how these two are not bigger stars.

Go...go...go!!! Spectacular is right!!!
by Sarah Drews Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I honestly laughed the whole way though, this show is fabulous, funny and exceptionally clever! See it as many times as you can!!! Beautiful voices, and delightfull...whether you are familiar with opera or not...you will truly have a great time!!!!

Good Fringe Rocks!
by Sarah Warren Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair. I was worried the opera stuff would make the show less accessible for me and my fringe newbie boyfriend. It did not. You can love opera, hate it or not care one bit about it. This show will make you feel good and happy no matter what. I wish we could install it in the old Triple Espresso space!!! I would, and will go back for more!

So Wonderful!
by Meghan Wolff Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This show was so well directed, well rehearsed, and seamlessly performed. The characters were flawless and fun and engaging and charming and vibrant and a hundred other wonderful things. If there were a lifetime guarantee that I could see this once a year, every year, life would be perfect. I'll say it, though at this point I think it's pretty clear, I loved it!

Loved It
by Mark Long Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Silly spoofs of dramatic operas by 2 talented nuts set to pop music tunes. Fantastic and funny.

Hilarious and touching
by William Beeman Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
These two guys spoof not only opera, but also their own performance, and manage to show a poignant tussle between the need for attention and the equally important need for affection and camaraderie. Carmen, Boheme, Aida, all tuneful. When the got to Salome, I really wondered--Richard Strauss' opera is one of the most difficult scores around. So they ignored it and mashed it up with Samson and Delilah and then mocked their performance. Hilarious fun and great theater.

Super, indeed!
by Richard Jackson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Bravo! These two accomplished performers easily made me cry with laughter during their opera send-ups. They are both fine singers and the show is clever and smart. I hope they will continue to work on this piece. It could be even better. But, then there wouldn't be enough kitties!

by Evelyn Blum Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Found this very funny, I only know a little bit about opera, but I do know I enjoyed the simple slap stick like humor of these two guys.

Cheap fun
by David Trudeau Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I am an opera fan and thought this was funny and clever and well done. The conventions of opera are a bit far fetched and this show lays into them. The thematic essence and signature music from each of six great operas was mixed in with some pop and pleasant surprise. I liked the costumes- simple, goofy effective. Of course the protagonist dies and the more melodrama the better for unabashedly solicited "bravo's."

Super Snort-acular!
by Patrick Pfundstein Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
'Spectacular' romps through several 7-minute operas (including Carmen, Aida, and Madame Butterfly) as well as a subplot creating tensions in the two man troupe.The actors behind the actors share great chemistry with both each other and the audience (if you are shy, don't sit in the front row!). The singing is pretty good, and where English exposition sung to famous aria tunes don't cut it, Merril and Emmet break into Bread or Guns 'N' Roses to serve the Muse. I started laughing near the top, and didn't really stop until it was all over, while the dude across the aisle spent half the show if full snort mode.

Am I missing something??
by Amy Salloway Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
Wow; I'm going to assume that I just "don't get it", or that I forgot to take my multivitamin before this show or something, because...I wasn't laughing, or crying, or moved, or touched, or all that terribly impressed. These guys had great voices, but I wasn't paying attention to their voices - I was paying attention to all the crazy drag-queen-like costume changes, and the mincing about, and the incorporation of pop songs, and other trappings of high camp theatre that I've seen so many times before. Maybe I needed to know the operas being spoofed to get the jokes? I dunno. Everyone else seemed to be having fun, and these other reviews are heavy on the kitties, so maybe I'm just premenstrual.

Non-stop laughing - costume-change award
by Suzanne Sharrock Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I like real opera. But I also like this takeoff on opera, as an excuse for humor. Six operas in sixty minutes means basically a tiny gem of an operatic solo mixed with everything from "This Little Light of Mine" to music from "Hair". The costumes were numerous - how did they change so quickly, anyway. Extra points for bringing the audience into the show! It'll be an encore and was sold out the first night it played. Get your reservation in for a terrific hour of fun, music, humor, and maybe a little opera too!

by Ariane Sandford Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I laughed, I cried (from laughing so hard), I learned about opera! Such a cute and inventive show. You'll walk out of the theater with a giddy grin on your face. Definitely a must-see of this year's Fringe.

Inspired idea
by Florence Brammer Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
These guys are the real deal. They sing beautifully amidst all the wonderful comedy. What an inspired idea to not only have a series of six 10-minute operas, but to mesh the real operas' music with pop/rock. So funny. I couldn't believe that an hour had passed when it was over.

Pavarotti Notwithstanding
by Linda Norcross Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
If you're an opera buff, you'll recognize the plots but not the music, and that is ok. Set to "Stairway to Heaven," "Losing My Religion," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," etc.. an opera transformation takes place right before your eyes -- and it's funny as hell. Two actors, one who sings like an angel, and the other who dances like a ballerina will tickle your fancy as they frolic through some half dozen of the best known operas. The costume changes and props are genius, and their interaction with the audience is sweet and sassy. So glad I chose to see this and was able to get in.

by Craig Beddow Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
It really was a Super Spectacular show!

Spectacular indeed
by Nick Rindo Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Fantastic characters and a playful script kept the audience laughing throughout the show. It's the best Fringe show I've seen in the last few years.

by Heather Meyer Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I do not know anything about opera. I do know that I loved this show.

These boys clearly know about singing-type of stuff. When the singing happens (as it often does) it is BEAUTIFUL. And the show is hilarious. And charming. And handsome.

And now I know more about opera. So the world is a better place. GO SEE THIS SHOW!

by Scott Pakudaitis Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Both fans and haters of opera will enjoy this show. These two performers present several popular operas as abridged 7 minute productions using silly costumes and melange of motifs from the operas themselves (with their own lyrics) and modern music (REM, The Cure and New Order to name a few.)

Hilarious Fun
by Levi Morris Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
This show is creative, hilarious and so energetic. The two actors are great and play with the audience with such ease that it is obvious they have been doing this for awhile. Their charisma and performance is catching right from the beginning.

The only issue I had with this show is the joke started to feel a little bit long and the actors seemed a little bit tired (understandably so, but I shouldn't sense it as an audience member.) Overall, this is a must see at the fringe this year. It's so so hilarious and so so well done!! Congrats on a great show!! :D

by Rebekah Tempest Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Creative, multi-talented actors, inventive material with a performance that had me standing and yelling Bravo. And I don't do that kind of thing.
Definitely go see this show.

Much more than opera
by Peter Fleck Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
BRAVO! Thank you Jonathan and Joe. We loved it all the way through and were at no loss not being familiar with all the original operas. We did know most of the pop songs.

These guys know the show well and play the parts flawlessly from the beginning to the end. Excellent connection with the audience (who they incorporate in funny and gentle ways).

This is a "don't miss it" Fringe show this year (even if you hate opera).

by Maria Keith Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
A very fun hour, a smile never left my face, totally entertaining.

Great Chemistry
by ian felton Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
The chemistry between Merril Garrick and Emmet is apparent. They play off each other and the audience's emotions skillfully.

Having never seen any of the opera's wasn't a problem. The show has a story of it's own and carries you between each mini-opera.

You feel for both Merril and Emmet on a human level, which is clearly the sign of a successful script, considering that the majority of the act is the performance of the mini-operas.

A day after seeing the show I'm still thinking about the characters and wondering where they might pop-up next.

Not Exactly Opera
by Bill McTeer Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
If you are very traditional about opera, this show may not please you. For those with a more complex relationship, it's huge fun. The characters are perfect, the voices are strong, book never drags, and the interminable foreign-language arias have been replaced by popular songs of similar meaning. Plus, there is a cute on-stage subplot that ties the whole thing together.

Super Spectacular! To Opera with Love
by Cathy Nelson-Messer Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
I'm new to The Fringe, but an active theatre viewer. Joe and Johnie created a fabulous script incorporating opera with contemporary music to describe the plot. One needed to know the story lines of the original operas and the music to better see the comedy. Engaging the audience in the performance was seamless and added to the comedic effects. Fabulous! I'd highly recommend it. Bravo to both actors.

Love it!
by Julie Steenerson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
What a fun evening to spend with two dynamic performers - great interaction with the audience, many fun and unexpected turns and lots of deep belly laughs! The singing, including modified lyrics, along with dancing and physical comedy were all first rate. Loved it!

by Andrea Howell Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This will be one of my all-time Fringe favorites. This incredibly talented duo had the sold-out house laughing non-stop. Only downside-- no programs.

Terrific performances
by Daniel Pinkerton Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
This is a show with some really solid laughs. Joe & Jonathan created charming, funny character archetypes and played really well off each other. They also interacted well with the audience. Alas, the material was uneven --- hysterically funny in one sequence, dull in the next. If you have a better grasp of 80s pop music than I do, you might enjoy it more. But it would be a stronger show if it were half as long and had twice as much opera.

Best. Show. Yet.
by Tal Anderson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
It's Sunday evening, and this is the best of the six shows I've seen so far. Very inventive show, great music, and talented cast. If you're up on various pop music hits over the past few decades, you'll understand the brilliance even more. Bravo!

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Sunday, 8/77:00 p.m.This performance is audio described
Monday, 8/87:00 p.m. 
Tuesday, 8/95:30 p.m. 
Thursday, 8/118:30 p.m. 
Saturday, 8/132:30 p.m. 
Sunday, 8/148:30 p.m. 

Augsburg Mainstage venue information
2211 Riverside Av (theater entrance at 22nd Av S and S 7th St)

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