St. Olaf College | News

Music students bring Canadian author’s award-winning novel to life

Eric Broker ’15, who plays the title role of Fabrizio Cambiati, is featured on posters for the operetta.

For the last two years, St. Olaf College Professor of Music James McKeel has worked on bringing Canadian author Mark Frutkin’s award-winning novel to the stage.

Next week, a group of St. Olaf student actors and musicians will help him do just that — shortly after they have the opportunity to meet Frutkin himself at the show’s final rehearsal.

The ensemble will present Fabrizio’s Comet, a two-act operetta based on Frutkin’s award-winning novel, Fabrizio’s Return. The magical, time-bending narrative follows an Italian priest’s quest for sainthood and the Devil’s Advocate sent to investigate his candidacy.

This project is part of St. Olaf’s Lyric Theater season, a Music Department program that offers training and performance opportunities to undergraduate musical actors.

McKeel, who co-founded the Lyric Theater program at St. Olaf with Associate Professor Emerita of Music Janis Hardy, received a Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council grant to complete the second act of Fabrizio’s Comet.

McKeel and Frutkin spent a two-year period exchanging ideas about the operetta’s adaptation, libretto, and musical numbers. And while it was a time-consuming process, McKeel says it wasn’t hard to migrate Frutkin’s work to an operatic setting.

Fabrizio’s Return already had a musical quality to it,” says McKeel. “Mark Frutkin is a very poetic author, skilled at creating colorful characters that naturally come to life on the stage.”

The production features a cast of 20 St. Olaf students, an orchestra led and formed by Natalia Romero ’15, and an undergraduate Creative Team.

Fabrizio’s Comet incorporates students from McKeel’s Advanced Acting for the Lyric Stage course, alongside other students who auditioned for the show. Members of the class will engage in a musical theater outreach program at local elementary schools after the St. Olaf premiere.

The October 18 performance on campus will also be streamed and archived online.