After an award-winning stint at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in 2008 and a sold-out run at Queens Theatre in the Park last year, this good-natured celebration of Greek culture is back for a five-week run at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria, Queens, which any New Yorker knows is a huge and thriving Greek-American neighborhood. Fueled (but not prejudiced, oh no) by a delicious Greek lunch at Stamatis Restaurant, we attended an afternoon performance with an audience enlarged by a busload of teenagers. The fact that the show held the kids' attention, more or less, for its whole two-act length probably says more than any praise I could give it in this review.
The story is simple and old-fashioned and gets pretty silly, but that's all part of its lighthearted spirit. Anyone expecting Sunday in the Park with George should have taken note of the exclamation point in the title. OPA! does, however, share one thing with Sondheim's cerebral piece: the second act takes place after years have passed, with a new generation revisiting the sins and errors of a previous one.
In Act I, Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld brings a bell-clear, Disney-princess voice and sprightly persona to the role of young Sophia, a girl who wants more than life on her tiny Greek island can offer. In addition to yearning to go to Athens and act in classical Greek tragedies, Sophia loves the cocky Manos (the powerful-voiced and quite funny Yanni Amouris), who harbors even grander ambitions of emigrating to America. Meanwhile young Costa (the cherubic-voiced Brent Lomas) pines hopelessly for Sophia.
The Greek palace guard, arriving on the island looking for recruits, breaks up the love triangle; off goes manly Manos to the mainland, with shy, good-hearted Costa trailing along. When Sophia turns up in Athens only to be jilted by her hometown lover, she settles for second best. Big mistake? Act II will tell.