Vivid and bold A Noise Within’s second foray (first was in 1997) into “The Threepenny Opera” (Feingold translation) has a delightfully sharp edge. Assisted by Scenic Designer Frederica Nascimento Directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliot have made masterful use of their new Pasadena stage living up to the groundbreaking standard of the original Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill production which had its 1928 debut in Berlin.
Breaking the fourth wall, from the get-go the audience is made aware they are watching a play, a play about beggars and criminals in which much of the exposition is sung. These are not nice people. In fact they are amoral. There are two “gangs,” the beggars from whom their “leader,” Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum (Geoff Elliot), takes a generous cut of their “earnings,” and the “criminals” whose head miscreant, Macheath (Andrew Abelson) is a knife murdering, raping thief of the worst order. And yet, sex-addicted Macheath has prowess that lures women to his side and his bed, most recently Peacham’s daughter, Polly (Marisa Duchowny).
With a soft opening, members of the prodigiously talented cast are stationed around the house and on stage doing their warm ups, before the play within the play begins, while the fabulous orchestra (also on stage) tunes their instruments.
In ANW’s “Threepenny” Abelson displays Macheath’s narcissist nature and sociopath tendencies convincingly and totally looks the part, but some of the seductive machismo that would be so irresistible seems missing. Still, he is compelling and his strong singing voice is superb and his diction is especially clear.
Lucy Brown (Maegan McConnell), Jenny Diver (Stasha Surdyke) and Polly, Macheath’s women are all beautiful and blessed with vocal gifts. But in some instances what they were singing was hard to understand. This might have been due a technical problem on opening night. But there was no doubt what Polly meant when she sang about her mind-blowing nuptial night with Macheath! She really sold that song.
As always, Deborah Strang was strong as Mrs. Peachum, Jeremy Rabb was fun as Macheath’s “cop in a pocket” cohort and Abubakr Ali made a splendid Crook-Fingered Jack. But seriously, the entire cast and ensemble collectively is one giant star. When everyone is singing it is spine tingling!
Theater is a family affair with the Elliotts. Having father, Geoff, daughter, Alison (Dolly), and son, Jack (Jimmy), as members of the cast added another layer of enjoyment to this production.
Brecht and Weill were musical geniuses and “The Threepenny Opera” with a mix of brash, harsh and tender melodies is a shining example. Under the baton DeReau K. Farrar, the orchestra’s seven musicians captured all the nuances.
There is so much to love about ANW’s “Threepenny” the colorful and provocative costumes designed by Angela Balogh Calin the hair, wig and makeup designed by Giselle Blair and the Tango from consultants Sergio Leal and Issabella Grosso from Latin Dance Pro to name a few.
Production Sponsors James and Trevessa Terrile should be pleased and proud.
ANW’s penchant for education is a boon for the audience; their thorough, interesting and informative program notes are the best in So Cal. Audience members who are not familiar with this (and any of their other productions) will be well-served to read them before the show begins.
“The Threepenny Opera” performs in repertory through May 17, 2015. Tickets start at $40; student rush with ID an hour before performance $20. Group rates are available. Call 626-356-3100 ext. 1 or visit www.anoisewithin.org.
A Noise Within is located at 3352 E Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena.