There is no way one can escape the darkness that is The Threepenny Opera, but there is ample humor to make the journey worth taking.
Taylor Theater and the UNCG School of Music, Theatre, and Dance present Threepenny Opera under the direction of Christine Morris, holding true to Bertolt Brecht's libretto (heard in a modification of Marc Blitzstein's English translation) and Kurt Weill's modern musical comedy.
The Threepenny Opera is a satirical comedy (loosely patterned on John's Gay's Beggar's Opera) that presents a Marxist view of a capitalistic world. This social corruption is presented in an operatic style that is intentionally rough around the edges - because its model mocked the Italian operas (by Handel and others) that were wildly popular at the time. In the Weill-Brecht update, those unpolished voices clearly match the rags that hang from the beggars and the scantily clad women as seen in the playhouse that comprises Matt Sale's versatile set.
Jack Jerrett leads nine musicians through a score that is layered with music that pulls liberally from cabaret and jazz styles. The musicians were carefully tucked into the middle of the set dressed in period style clothing; they meshed incredibly well to create for two and a half hours an image of what London looked like during the 1920s.
Mack the Knife is a notorious criminal who has an extreme weakness for the ladies; his connections in the police department keep him safe from capture. That is, until he marries Polly, who is the daughter of JJ Peachum, organizer of the beggars. In revenge Mr. Peachum sets out to derail the coronation of the queen with a bounty of beggars unless the police commissioner arrests and hangs Macheath.
As Mack the Knife, Phillip Lynch carries the central role with his comedy and ease of delivery. Lynch has the sex appeal and the danger that is necessary for the role, and his performance was further enhanced by excellent diction in dialogue and songs.
Suzanna Ziko is Lucy Brown, a prostitute who still loves Mack despite her better judgment. Lucy's lacy corset and tight bob accentuate her ballads with teary, soulful intensity.
Izzy Goff is lovely as Polly Peachum; it is clear she has a soprano gift for comic drama. She is no doubt a very talented woman who plays a pouting child and a jealous diva. Her arch song of revenge, "Pirate Jenny," sounds delightfully menacing.
Matt Sale's set features a "steampunk," a mechanical device of the Victorian age that features steam-powered inventions that go far beyond 1800s technology. This device was exquisitely incorporated into every scene change. Derrick Vanmeter's costume designs also were flawless in presentation. Opera, or theater for that matter, is a visual art, and this team of people nailed it, making the show all the more enjoyable.
By any measure, The "Threepenny Opera is a landmark work. Had it never been written, later musical works such as Cabaret, Sweeney Todd, and Chicago would not have become reality. Macheath states early in Act. 1, "I'm not asking for grand opera," and Threepenny doesn't try to be that, but the social message was conveyed through an excellent production.
This production runs through 10/6. For details, see the sidebar.