Notebook: River of Time Cast 1

Billy the Barber (Reginald Smith Jr.) is a key character in reminding Abraham Lincoln (Nick Provenzale) of his commitment to fight slavery.

Billy the Barber (Reginald Smith Jr.) is a key character in reminding Abraham Lincoln (Nick Provenzale) of his commitment to fight slavery. Photo from Sept. 29 rehearsal by Rich Copley, LexGo.com.

I’ve talked before at le blog about the challenge of reviewing University of Kentucky Opera Theatre productions because the collegiate company always double-casts shows due to singers’ needs for vocal rest — professional companies rarely put a show up on consecutive days for that reason — and to spread experience around.

It has its up sides, of course, but one downside is that only one cast gets reviewed by the paper. We simply do not have the time or space to review a show twice, and waiting for both casts to perform would hamper our efforts to deliver a timely review.

The same is true for UKOT’s world premier production of River of Time, which opened Thursday night at the Lexington Opera House. Nick Provenzale sings the lead role of Abraham Lincoln all three nights, but most of the primary singing roles are double cast. We reviewed Cast A (UKOT’s termionology) last night, which acquitted itself quite well in a new opera that had some big issues in story and pace.

Abraham Lincoln (Nick Provenzale) tries to comfort Ann Rutledge (Julie La Douceur) in her final hours in River of Time.

Abraham Lincoln (Nick Provenzale) tries to comfort Ann Rutledge (Julie La Douceur) in her final hours in "River of Time."

That said, I did get to catch Cast 1, which performs tonight (Oct. 9), in a rehearsal last week, and if you are holding tickets for tonight’s performance or are thinking of going, I don’t think you’ll be shortchanged.

Among the standouts set to go on tonight are Reginald Smith Jr. as Billy the Barber and Julie LaDouceur as Ann Rutledge.

Based on what I caught that evening, some of the different performers will likely bring different vibes to their work. LaDouceur’s Ann seemed sweeter and more whistful than Amanda Balltrip’s more feisty, jocular take. And Smith, whose voice will always get your attention, put a lot of comand behind his version of Billy, performed with tremendous empathy by Mark Elliott Golson II last night and Saturday.

So the takes may be somewhat different, but either way, you should expect some terrific performances.

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