Monday, February 26, 2007

Threepenny Opera from Soulpepper

My regular readers know I am a helpless captive of the Soulpepper schedule, only able to escape their productions under extreme duress. And I am SO delighted now they are doing a full year season.
So my sister and I and two friends saw their production of The Threepenny Opera last weekend.
What a joy (if one can say that about Brecht)!
It opened mischievously with an ostensibly male figure descending a staircase at the back of the stage; at some point off comes the outer layer of clothing and one realizes that those are breasts under the next layer! d’bi.young.anitafrika did just a GREAT job as the sort-of-narrator, and she kicked off the opening 'Mack the Knife' brilliantly with a throaty and nasty first verse about Macheath's dubious behaviours. She continued to play a wonderfully transgressive role through the whole play, serving as half narrator and half observer as events unrolled. Very nice direction, I thought.
And when Mack appeared, I had to stifle a laugh, as Albert Schultz in the role, as already pointed out by my sister (see link above) was still playing Conrad Black and using his voice from the mini-series (follow the links from my sister's post). My own guess is he got the idea to do this show while doing the Black mini-series, thinking it would transfer well. And it is not so bad. Though my own view is that Black has Macheath's entrepreneurial drives and articulateness, but I doubt he has a willingness to engage all Macheath's methods.
Some more on the production. This one used many of the young players being developed by the Soulpepper Academy; they acquitted themselves REALLY well. Sarah Wilson was wonderful performing as Jenny, and Jennifer Villaverde as Lucy. I hope they both remain major Soulpepper fixtures.
Patricia O'Callaghan's singing was wonderful as Polly, and to be fair to Soulpepper versus Toronto Operetta Theatre, let me say that her decolletage was too (as were, as she insisted on emphasizing during the show, her legs).
There is REAL problem with this 'opera'. The music is too wonderful. So listening to all the extremely negative lyrics with Weill's music in the background is a bit tricky - nowadays I find it hard to take the lyrics seriously, because the music is so pretty, but maybe in 1928 the music grated more.
Still, another part of it is wondering - how much of this is the original John Gay and how much Brecht/Hauptmann? Did the latter add anything?
My read - no. There was lot of puerile communism in the lyrics, which it seemed easy to attribute a 1920's communist. The one witty point was that I wondered whether the deus ex machina that saves Macheath at the end came from Brecht or from John Gay's sense of irony. Follow the link above and you will learn that Gay had it all over Brecht (ultimately an apologist for East Germany). This did not surprise me.


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