Bernstein’s ‘Trouble in Tahiti’ meets ‘Mad Men’


Drawing upon the scenes and style of the hit television series, “Mad Men,” a novel adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s opera “Trouble in Tahiti” runs May 3, 4 and 5 at Cal State San Bernardino.

CSUSB students Ulises Espinoza (foreground) plays Sam and Danielle Perrault (in the background) plays Dinah, while Twila Fraser-Hewlett portrays the young child, Sally, in a novel adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s opera ‘€œTrouble in Tahiti’ that runs May 3, 4 and 5.

“Our entire production is done in a ‘Mad Men’ style,” says Stacey Fraser, the CSUSB opera theatre professor known for her uncanny ability to adapt productions to make them relatable to American pop culture. “In fact,” she adds, “the plot of  ‘Trouble in Tahiti’ encompasses the same kind of socio-political issues that are incorporated into ‘Mad Men’ season 1. I actually wonder if Bernstein’s opera – written in the early 1950s – could have had some sort of influence on the ‘Mad Men’ writers.”

The one-act opera in seven scenes was composed by Bernstein with an English libretto. Set in 1950s suburbia, the show depicts a postwar American couple whose family is perfect. Or so it appears.

The desperately unhappy married couple, Sam and Dinah, (much like the characters Don and Betty from “Mad Men”) are lonely, longing for love, and unable to communicate while searching for an escape from their mundane routines.

The couple attempts to live their daily lives as best they can, trying to get along and all the while a scat singing jazz trio sings tunes of their idyllic American suburban middle-class life, with their “little white house, two-door sedan, convertible coupe and sweet child.”

CSUSB students Danielle Perrault plays Dinah, while Ulises Espinoza plays Sam. The young child, Sally, is performed by Twila Fraser-Hewlett.

An original video projection design by CSUSB music technology student Cash Tijerina also is used to create the show’s “Mad Men” look.

Performances for “Trouble in Tahiti” are May 3, 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Recital Hall. Tickets are on sale now at $11 for students, $13 for senior citizens and $17 for general admission. Parking is $5 per vehicle.

For tickets, updates and additional information, visit, call the music department box office at (909) 537-7516, or join the conversation on Facebook by searching for csusbmusic.