Gabrielle Wagner, left, a sophomore music performance major, left, and Amber Urso, right, a freshman music major, perform during a dress rehearsal for Brenau University's production of "Little Red Riding Hood." The show will take place on Friday, April 1, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, April 2, 2:30 p.m. in Pearce Auditorium.
Brenau University 's Opera Workshop performed "Little Red Riding Hood" in April 2016.

Brenau Opera Workshop Turns Classic Children’s Tale into a Marvelous Musical

Mar 31, 2016
Brenau Staff

Brenau University presents an opera workshop this weekend featuring music majors performing Seymour Barab’s 1962 one-act opera Little Red Riding Hood.

Little Red Riding Hood Show PosterBrenau adjunct professor Jan Grissom, a veteran opera performer, directs the workshop production, which is, based on the 17th century children’s fable about the titular young girl’s encounter with the notorious Big Bad Wolf. The program also features junior music performance major Shelby Cody, of Mt. Airy, Georgia, and freshman music major Amber Urso, of Gainesville, Georgia, who portray Little Red Riding Hood on alternating days. Rounding out the cast is sophomore music performance major Gabrielle Wagner, of Mooresville, North Carolina, in a dual role as Red’s mother and grandmother and freshman music theater major John Tyler Dobson, of Silver Creek, Georgia, tackling the roles of both the menacing wolf and heroic woodsman.

“I laugh at every single rehearsal,” Grissom said. “The kids will be pulled into the story and cheering for Little Red. It’s a sweet and charming show.”

“We are so fortunate to have such strong singers for this workshop,” Grissom said. “Both ladies playing Little Red are just precious. Tyler has done a beautiful job and really taken on his part whole-heartedly. And Gabbie is hysterical as the grandmother, she’ll have you rolling on the floor laughing.”

The workshop format involves minimal set pieces and costumes. The performers worked on pieces of music during winter break. When classes resumed in January, they rehearsed every Friday for four hours – “to get a feel for our characters and the humor in the lines,” Wagner said.

The rehearsals have been demanding, but rewarding, said Urso. “Seeing all your hard work come together towards the end is always wonderful and makes you excited to perform for audiences so they can enjoy it just as we do.”

Grissom, overseeing her second opera workshop at Brenau, said she hopes to take the workshop to local schools in the area in the future, exposing more elementary and middle school students to opera. The format certainly has a lot of appeal to youngsters, she added. “It’s funny and sometimes scary, but it’s cute and a lot of fun.”

Grissom, a soprano, lives in Suwanee, Georgia. She has performed as a professional opera singer for more than 20 years with 30 companies around the country, including performances at Brenau prior to her affiliation with the institution as a part-time faculty member. Having earned an Associate of Art in Music from Northeast Mississippi Junior College, a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Music from the University of North Alabama and a Master of Music from the University of Houston, she has taught vocal performance and music appreciation for more than a decade. She has also won numerous awards for her performances in productions like La Boheme and Romeo and Juliet. She also has been a Metropolitan Opera Regionalist.

The first program is Friday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. and the second is Saturday, April 2, at 2:30 p.m. Both performances will be at Pearce Auditorium, 200 Boulevard in the Gainesville historic campus.

Little Red Riding Hood is free and open to the public. For more information. call (770) 538-4764 or visit