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Review September 2, 2004



The Desert Song

The Desert Song

The Welk Resort Theatre


There are problems with The Desert Song.


It is dated material, it has no memorable songs (name one song from The Desert Song that is part of the national musical memory), it is predictable, it is duplicative (Superman and The Scarlet Pimpernel come to mind) and it just isn’t very good.


To be sure, the singers, dancers, set designers, orchestra . . . they are all outstanding.  The problem is . . . talent can only do what the writers have prepared for them.


Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the book and lyrics, Sigmund Romberg wrote the music for this operetta that opened November 30, 1926, 88 years ago!  It ran for 471 perfomances and had three movie versions in 1929, 1943 and 1955.


In the days of ‘23-skidoo,” “your father’s mustache,” and “oh, you kid!,” this was probably hot stuff.  This is 2004, last time I checked.  This once great Oscar Hammerstein material is now passe’.


The Welk Resort Theatre has presented a number of musicals that we have attended and found most enjoyable. 


This was not one of them. 


We left at the intermission.


Left, Jennifer Bangs with Andrew Husmann - lead actors in
The Desert Song


A synopsis:


Pierre Birabeau, son of the general of all French troops in Morocco, is secretly sympathetic to the local Riffs. Disguising himself in a red costume, he leads the Moroccans against his own countrymen, but at the garrison he pretends to be a weakly simpleton (kinda like Clark Kent, alter ego of Superman). His behavior with his fellow Frenchmen does not help further his desire for romance with the beautiful Margot. (kinda like Lois Lane). She prefers dashing, but fickle, Captain Paul Fontaine.


Pierre has no choice but to go to Margot in his other identity, the notorious Red Shadow, and carry her off to his desert camp. Complications arise when Azuri, a dancing girl, reveals the camp’s location to the French.  Eventually, Margot discovers the true identity of the Red Shadow and they live happily ever after.


And I think that’s just ducky.


After having such a successful series of runs, it’s a shame that the Welk Resort Theatre chose this aged musical.  They have a first class venue for musical productions, a reputation for bringing in top talent, but, given their many successes, I guess they are entitled to a clinker now and then.  This one qualifies.


As mentioned, the talent was top notch.  Andrew Husmann, the male lead, was magnificent in his singing . . . Brenna Fleeman was a superb dancer as Azuri . . . Ciro Barbaro displayed a masterful comedic touch and drew laughter repeatedly from the audience. It’s just a shame these talented folks weren’t given better material with which to work.  Their singing and dancing was superb; they just didn’t have the proper show to display it.


The Desert Song is scheduled to run from August 26 through November 7th.  Prices are $33 to $36 for performance only, $46 to $51 including buffet.  (We can strongly recommend the Welk Resort buffet.  Outstanding value and great service!)


For additional information, contact the Welk Resort Theatre box office at 749.3448.  For group reservations of 15 or more persons, call 749.8501.