'Most Happy Fella' spreads joy on Bowling Green Opera Theater stage

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Rehearsing “The Most Happy Fella” are (left to right) Rebecca Kuch (lower left), Mark West, Nathan Fischer, Aaron Meece, Ryan Presson, Nick Kottman (seated) Helen Thompson (blue sweatshirt), Julia Gries and Alicia Berryhill.

In today’s internet world, we have “catfishing,” where would-be suitors misrepresent themselves online to attract potential mates. That is the modern version of the situation in “The Most Happy Fella,”” except that this suitor is truly smitten with his intended “catch.”

Bowling Green State University Opera Theater presents the romantic musical, set in the 1920s wine country of Napa Valley. Dr. Geoffrey Stephenson directs the lively “Broadway opera” by composer Frank Loesser, also of “Guys and Dolls” fame.

The story unfolds as Tony (played by Nick Kottman), a middle-aged grape farmer from Italy, encounters a waitress in a San Francisco diner and immediately falls in love. He writes a love letter to her on a menu, and leaves an amethyst tie pin. Rosabella (Caroline Kouma) is touched and intrigued but cannot place his nondescript face among the busy day’s many customers.

The two begin a “pen pal-ship” that eventually leads to a marriage proposal. However, feeling insecure at the last minute, instead of his own photo, Nick includes a picture of his handsome young foreman, Joe (Luke Serrano), thinking Joe is about to leave the vineyard.

The city-bred Rosabella duly arrives at the vineyard, expecting to meet one man, only to find that he is not her betrothed and that the real Tony has had a serious accident as he rushed to meet her train. She is anguished at the deception and by her circumstances. But her feelings gradually turn to love as Tony recovers and they spend time together. Their relationship blossoms as his essential goodness and true passion shine through, and their May-December union succeeds after all.

“Since many of the farm workers are Italian like Tony and some of the songs are in Italian, it was easy to cross over from opera to musical theater,” said Stephenson, a lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Film. “The role of Tony calls for a huge, beautiful, baritone voice and we really got that in Nick Kottman.

“There’s also the secondary couple who play a comic role. We have the characters of Herman (Luke Schmidt) and Cleo (Madi Short), who have some fun duets. And we have a great quartet who are also in the Men’s Chorus who sing the famous song ‘Standing on the Corner, Watching All the Girls Go By.’ The choral music for the show is quite lovely.’”

The show also includes spirited choreography by BGSU faculty member Tracy Wilson. It is fully staged and accompanied by two pianos. Kevin Bylsma is the music director and Keith Hofacker provides scenic and lighting design.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 2 and at 3 p.m. Nov. 4 in Kobacker Hall at Moore Musical Arts Center.

Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for non-BGSU students and children. All tickets are $20 the day of the performance. Admission is free for BGSU students with ID card. To purchase tickets, visit or call the Arts Box Office in the Wolfe Center for the Arts weekdays from noon-5 p.m., or phone 419-372-8171. Tickets may also be purchased online at BGSU.edu/arts.