Review: The Threepenny Opera (UC Follies)

By Adelina Fabiano

Tackling a script by the famous German playwright Bertolt Brecht and captivating score by Kurt Weill is not an easy feat. However, the UC Follies‘s current presentation of The Threepenny Opera at the University of Toronto’s Hart House Theatre, proves to be daring and ambitious.

Adapted from an 18th century English ballad opera, John Gray’s The Beggar’s Opera, Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, is a commentary on the 20th century capitalist world in Victorian London. This bawdy and dark musical comedy takes a look at London’s sleazy underworld and the plight of the oppressed poor.

Poetically written both in language and musical composition, showcasing entertaining musical numbers, this political satire will leave you humming many of the tunes long after the show.

The show opens with Peachum’s Morning Hymn, and “The ‘No They Can’t’ Song” performed by Chris Valdivia and Alicia Kapudag as Mr. and Mrs. Peachum. Kapudag is charming and comical as Mrs. Peachum whose mezzo-soprano voice, mannerisms and overall characterization kept me enthralled the whole time. Valdivia is also interesting to watch as the shady and wacky “business man” who controls the beggars of London and endeavours to have Mac, his daughter’s husband, sentenced to death.

Michael-David Blostein was charismatic and menacing in the role of “Mac the Knife.” The fact that all the ladies would find his “bad boy” image so alluring was convincing. His baritone voice captured my attention and was a good contrast to Polly Peachum’s lovely and soft soprano voice played by Nicole Stawikowski.

I especially enjoyed the final number in Act 1, “The Ballad of Immoral Earnings,” performed by Mac the Knife and Low-dive Jenny played by Sarah Thorpe. Thorpe was seductive and strong both in movement, acting and in voice. The chemistry between Mac and Jenny was quite believable.

As the Radio Broadcaster to the side of the stage, Tim Ziegler carried the plot forward introducing the upcoming musical numbers with just the right amount of humour and sarcasm.

Directed by Viridi Odern, and choreographed by Shakir Haq, the action from scene to scene seemed to move at just the right speed. Shakir Haq’s choreography was appropriate to the time-period and well complimented the jazzy cabaret influence in the musical score.

The set well represented London’s underground scene with one part of the stage cleverly used as Mac’s jail cell and the other side used as the Peachum’s home, and the beggars’ quarters.

The entire ensemble of players was quite strong although at times I found myself struggling to hear lyrics and lines delivered by actors.

Showcasing fine acting, singing, musical direction, biting dialogue and comical characters, UC Follies’s The Threepenny Opera is overall a very good revival of classical musical theatre.

Details:

-UC Follies will be presenting The Threepenny Opera at Hart House Theatre from February 3rd, 2011 until February 12th, 2011, located at the University of Toronto, 7 Hart House Circle (Just NW of Wellesley and Queen’s Park, a five minute walk south of Museum Subway).

-Show times for week one include Thurs-Sat at 8pm and week two from Wed-Sat at 8pm with a Saturday matinee at 2pm.

-Tickets may be purchased at www.uofttix.ca or by calling 416-978-8849,or at the U of T Box Office (Lower Level from 11am-5pm), or at www.harthouse.ca

-Ticket prices range from $20 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. $16 group rates (10 or more) are also available.

Photograph of cast taken by Sarah Blostein