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‘Anna Nicole the Opera’ comes to Brooklyn Academy of Music

Front stage story

for The Brooklyn Paper
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At 5 feet 11 inches, Anna Nicole Smith is a character with big... shoes to fill.

The operatic interpretation of the Playboy model who gained notoriety through her marriage with an octogenarian is coming to U.S. audiences for the first time at the Brooklyn Academy of Music — and in order to convey the larger-than-life stature of the woman who tragically died from an overdose in 2007, the wardrobe includes high-heeled shoes, as well as synthetic breasts.

“They are actually quite light,” said actress and soprano Sarah Joy Miller of the chest modification.

“The suit I wear in Act Two to simulate the weight gain is the most difficult to wear. It’s very warm in there!”

The real Anna Nicole wore many hats in her short lifetime of forty years; she’d been a waitress at Red Lobster, an employee at Wal-Mart, a topless dancer, a fashion model, a talk show hostess, and 1993’s Playmate of the Year among other things. Music though, was not one of her known fortes.

“I don’t know if she sang at all, but I would venture to say from her speaking voice that she had the range of a soprano,” said Miller.

Because Smith was so public about her life’s ups and downs, Miller found it relatively easy to get into the role.

“There is a lot of info out there and it has been an amazing experience to have so much at my fingertips,” said Miller. “When researching most opera roles, so much detail is unknown. Either that or it is a completely fictional character so one is limited. It’s a completely different experience to portray someone who has lived so recently.”

That said, the wealth of information on Smith only portray certain facets of her life.

“Except for her reality TV show, many people don’t remember anything of her,” said Miller. “I think the opera is both entertaining and informative of her early years.”

Good and bad press followed the blonde, buxom Playboy bunny for her beauty and stints of questionable behavior. The latter includes wedding 89-year old oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall when Smith herself was 26.

“She was exploited both by herself and others,” said Miller. “This opera really makes one consider the quest for fame and society subsequently feeding it.”

While it’s the hope of any show that the audience will connect with the story’s protagonist, standing in for Smith certainly brought Miller closer to the tabloid queen’s real persona and instilled sympathetic feelings.

“In rehearsal the other day, our incredible director, Richard Jones, said, ‘She had the charisma of complete honesty.’ I love that,” she said. “After playing her and researching her so intensely, I would love to have the chance to be her friend.”

“Anna Nicole the Opera” at Peter Jay Sharp Building, BAM Howard Gilman Opera House [321 Ashland Pl, (718) 636-4100, www.bam.org]. Sept. 17–28. Starting at $17.50.

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