Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s THE THREEPENNY OPERA, with English translation by Michael Feingold, is currently in repertory at A Noise Within (ANW).
The cast includes some ANW familiar faces – Geoff Elliott, his daughter Alison and son Jack, Deborah Strang, Jeremy Rabb – with an array of debuting actors/singers, including Andrew Ableson as Macheath and Marisa Duchowny as Polly Peachum.
THE THREEPENNY OPERA follows the exploits of the nastiest criminal in London, Macheath. He marries Polly, the daughter of the boss of all of London’s beggars, which ultimately gets him jailed. Just when he is about to be executed, he is helped by the most surprising of sources.
It is not often that you see a play in which all the characters are ruffians, beggars, or public servants who cooperate with criminals. But it is no accident, as Brecht intended to challenge the notion that amorality is unworthy of being expressed through song.
As a forerunner of modern musical theater, THE THREEPENNY OPERA is delivered half in dialogue and half in song. It wants to immerse you in the world of the play, which you realize the minute you step into the auditorium, when you find yourself surrounded by actors already singing, talking, and roving about.
While the members of the ANW company give their usual good performance, more memorable deliveries come from the new faces. Ableson is witty, his voice clear and strong both in word and in song, while Duchowny gifts the audience with what may be the most entertaining moment in the play – her “Barbara Song.”
But the real star of the night is the live orchestra placed at one side of the stage. Seven musicians and a conductor perform Weill’s music flawlessly. If you watch them attentively, you’ll see they are enough entertainment on their own. Here’s an interesting tidbit – Wes Smith, playing woodwinds with this orchestra, is also part of the film Whiplash, which just picked up an Oscar.
Between the lovely score, the singing, and the dancing (Sergio Leal and Isabella Grosso of Latin Dance Pro served as Tango consultants), THE THREEPENNY OPERA at ANW makes for an enjoyable evening. Its only downside is how difficult it is to understand the lyrics at a few spots, since in this play much of the plot is delivered through song. It will do you well to read up on the story before you watch the performance, for which the program’s detailed synopsis of each act is quite helpful.
THE THREEPENNY OPERA is about two and a half hours long, with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets start at $40, available at http://www.ANoiseWithin.org or by calling (626) 356-3100. The play will run until May 17. The theater is located at 3352 East Foothill Blvd in Pasadena 91107.
Photo: Andrew Ableson (Macheath) and Marisa Duchowny (Polly Peachum). Photo by Craig Schwartz