Second City and Lyric Opera: A Marriage Made for the Stage

The more you know about opera, the more you’ll enjoy “The Second City Guide to the Opera,” now running at the Civic Opera House, through June 30.

The show, presented by Lyric Unlimited, is so clever that even a passing acquaintance with the art form will have you laughing until it hurts.

Four men and four women take on this subject, which cries out for satire. Two of those eight, soprano Lauren Curnow and tenor Bernard Holcomb are alums of the Ryan Opera Center, the Lyric’s elite training program for young singers, and they fit right into the improvisational hilarity. However, when Curnow and Holcomb are asked if they ever considered a career in comedy, he replies, “No, we had parents who loved us.”

It is apparent in every skit that writers Jesse Case, Kate James and Timothy Sniffen did their homework, and the Second City ensemble, Joey Bland, Molly Brennan, Lili-Anne Brown, Beth Melewski, Tim Ryder and Sniffen, plunge right into operatic antics and even sing pretty well.

Wagner’s 16-hour “Ring” cycle tests the endurance of a couple on a blind date. Suddenly, it is announced that the evening will also include “previously deleted and unreleased scenes for a running time of 22 hours!”
Tim Ryder is Doctor Opera, a psychiatrist specializing in troubled operatic characters.  As Faust laments that he is going to hell because of the devil, Dr. Opera chides him for blaming Satan, adding “I don’t hear you accepting responsibility for your own choices.”

He counsels Aida and Radames as they cope with the boredom of being buried alive in an Egyptian pyramid, and when the wild Elektra, possibly the maddest of operatic madwomen, appears, he cancels the rest of his appointments, saying “This is going to take a while.”

In the scene where a married couple imagines their life as more operatic, Lili-Anne Brown says, “If I talked about my feelings for half an hour, it would be an aria.”

The ensemble, accompanied by Case, piano and guitar, John MacFarlane, violin, and Laura Deming, cello, has  great fun singing the Overture, the Intermission and the Finale, in which “the war is over, the young lovers are married, unless of course, they are both dead.”

The audience is seated at tables on Lyric’s vast stage,  as if the show were at Second City’s Wells Street home. The performers appear on a platform with a rear curtain to conceal the thousands of seats in the Civic Opera House.

The show is smart and funny. Dressing up is optional, laughing is not.


The Second City Guide to the Opera runs through june 30. Tickets are $35 – $75 and can be purchased here.