March 3, 1994
Green Bay Press Gazette
Wanda Sieber is a wonder.
It takes an extraordinary gift, and desire, to create a big-scale musical and then produce it.
A whole lot of people believe in the dynamic Sieber, and it shows in her Esther, Queen of Persia.
In many ways, the show is a stunning feat: A “church lady” writes a musical (her fourth) using cutting-edge ways (computers), mounts it with a large church and community company; it hangs together and is interesting; and people flock to it (to capacity of about 250 on Wednesday night).
No churches – much less any theatrical troupe in the region – are doing such stuff.
Despite the title, Esther does not dominate. Instead, assorted figures take their turn in the fore.
Key are Esther’s misguided husband, Xerxes, king of Persia; Haman, the unscrupulous right-hand man of Xerxes; and Mordecai, Esther’s guardian. Much takes place between Haman and the king as Haman connives to exterminate the Jews.
At minimum, the leads are fine singers. One (Paul DeSpirito, as Mordecai) is especially lustrous. One of the prettiest songs is Not of the World, with Deborah Petras, as Esther, joining DeSpirito.
Bruce Burton, as the king, a warm, rounded voice. James Marker gets the chance to be vile as Haman, adding a nasty edge to his songs.
Sounds are contemporary. The show has touches of a rock musical (opera, too), with lyrics sometimes used to tell the story.
Singers sing “live” over the taped, synthesized soundtrack. Many singers have body microphones – the latest thing.
The singing is much stronger than the acting. Songs “sing;” the dialog is flat.
If Sieber has “sinned” (in an attempt to bring the story into today), it’s in anachronisms – placing Fort Knox, Cartier gems and Porches in 480 B.C.
But her pluses overwhelm that. Particularly impressive are tricky, double-melody duets she creates for both Haman and Mordecai and Haman and the King. One song, sung by the company, (Hey, Hey) Haman, doesn’t go away, it’s so infectious.
Stepping back and looking at the whole project, it’s amazing.
Meet a historic heroine.