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Theatre Review: The Threepenny Opera

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The curtain parts to reveal a grimy scene in the bad part of town, where crooks and prostitutes operate freely, because the police chief on the take. Almost immediately, we encounter one of the most famous tunes found in any musical, ever.

(“Mack the Knife”)

It’s not the feel-good Vegas version. This production presents Kurt Weill’s composition “Mack the Knife” in the original creepy style – a perky tune with gloomy lyrics, sung by street people in ragged clothes, with dark circles beneath bleary eyes.

Mack the Knife, of course, is the charismatic anti-hero, both charming and utterly immoral. He is buddy-buddy with the police chief – in fact, they sing a stirring duet about their days with the British Army in India, brutally keeping the locals in line.

(“Let’s all go barmy, live off the Army…”)

This production is suitably staged in a scruffy industrial shed next to the Light Rail tracks, within walking distance of the gleaming State Capitol – Weill would have approved. This production is primarily the brainchild of distinguished soprano Angelina Réaux, who is director, costume and set designer, and performer. She’s been involved with Kurt Weill projects in New York and elsewhere for years, and her background is evident in this production.

It’s a huge undertaking, with a cast of 17, and a five-piece band. And it’s long -- a bit over three hours, with two intermissions. But it feels shorter, because this “Threepenny Opera” is all- absorbin. It’s depiction of the powerful controlling the poor, and cold-heartedly cutting their losses when the need arises, remains timeless and troubling. And in this production, the director and cast hit the nail on the head. 

“The Threepenny Opera” continues at California Stage --  located at 25th and R Streets in downtown Sacramento -- through March 15th.

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