Molly Mustonen and Michael Corvino in "The Most Happy Fella"

Molly Mustonen and Michael Corvino in "The Most Happy Fella" Credit: Molly Mustonen and Michael Corvino in "The Most Happy Fella"

The Most Happy Fella
3 stars

Now that the New York City Opera has deserted Lincoln Center, other less well-known opera companies have become more important than ever in providing an alternative to the increasingly expensive and technology-obsessed Metropolitan Opera.

The Dicapo Opera, a small company on the Upper East Side with a loyal fan base, has caught the attention of opera and musical theater fans alike with its winning revival of the much beloved 1956 musical comedy, "The Most Happy Fella."

It's not unusual for a classic musical to be produced in a tiny venue with just a piano and a handful of singers, but it's unheard of to see one in a 204-seat theater with a 32-piece orchestra. And that's what Dicapo is doing with "The Most Happy Fella," which has just returned following an initial sold-out run.

Penned by songwriter Frank Loesser ("Guys and Dolls" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying") "The Most Happy Fella" is one of the most romantic scores ever.

It begins with Tony (the appealing Michael Corvino), a middle-aged Italian immigrant, falling for a pretty young waitress (played tenderly by Molly Mustonen). Too scared to introduce himself, he leaves her his tiepin and a love note.

Touched by his kindness, they exchange letters and she even agrees to marry him. But Tony, scared she will find him unattractive, sends her a photo of his younger foreman instead of his own, leaving her shocked upon arrival at his farm. Act 2 observes how they are able to rekindle their romance.

The production is not without problems: there is practically no set design and the choreography looks very clumsy.

But getting to hear this wonderful score in an intimate space and performed by a large orchestra and singers who use no microphones is an extremely rare and valuable opportunity.

If you go: "The Most Happy Fella" plays at the Dicapo Opera through July 8. 184 E. 76th St., 212-288-9438, 

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