Musical numbers: Prologue, “Angel Mother, Angel Father,””To Conquer the Land, “”Sears and Roebuck Wedding Band,””They Will Send Ye a Sign,””What Mighta Been, “”Little Lamb,””Night of Shooting Stars,””Opal,””Someone,””Everybody’s Looking for Love,””Why Do I See Good.”
“Opal” is a warm, backwoods musical that follows the adventures of an impressionable French child of aristocratic breeding who is the lone survivor of a shipwreck shortly after the turn of the century, and who finds refuge in a rugged Oregon lumber camp.
Trying to adjust to an entirely new way of life, the youngster follows a personal quest to bring happiness to the hardened inhabitants of the settlement. The local folk are confused by her strange European customs and lapses into French. Francoise is “adopted” by a stern, hard-working woman who renames her Opal (Jackie Angelescu). The 7-year-old keeps a crude diary, creating fanciful names for her new friends; a blind girl is “the girl that has no seeing,” (Mana Allen), and a winsome, young, romantic lass is dubbed “the thought girl with the faraway look in her eyes” (Erin Hill).
Imparting youthful reason and storybook wisdom, Opal is able to bring meaning to some desolate lives.
Robert Nassif Lindsey, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, has constructed an often lilting and spirited score, and the characters are best defined in their songs. There is a vigorous work number and a rousing hoedown at harvest time. A nervous suitor (Christopher Chew) courts the girl with the faraway look in a strong ballad inspired by the pages of a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Mamma (Julie Johnson) reflects upon a shattered past with “What Might Have Been,” and Marni Nixon is radiant as a Scottish washerwoman with the prophetic “They Will Send Ye a Sign.”
The tight ensemble offers keenly expressive performances, with cast members often doubling in roles. There is standout support from Deb F. Girdler as a frightening, towering schoolmarm and, with Judy Malloy, as one of two inseparable, gossipy spinster sisters. Angelescu is an acceptable orphan with an abundance of charm, but a greater contrast between fear and joy would be welcome.
Lynne Taylor-Corbett has staged and choreographed the piece with fluency, highlighted by a turbulent storm at sea and a forest blaze, with a valuable assist from Tom Sturge’s stunning lighting design. Michael R. Smith’s set relies on simple yet suggestive wooden structures, benches and buckets.
Those close to the tuner report there has been little change since a 1992 Off Broadway production, except cast changes and a larger playing space which allows more freedom of expression and movement.