PLYMOUTH —The Department of Music, Theatre and Dance at Plymouth State University will bring to life the tale of Macheath (Mac the Knife) and his cronies, and the underbelly of early Victorian London, with their production of Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera. Performances of 'The Three Penny Opera' in the studio theatre at the Silver Center for the Arts will be Thursday through Saturday, November 20–22 at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, November 22 and 23 at 2 p.m.
Director Sharon Rae Paquette says this "play with musical elements" tells a story, and in so doing illustrates social and cultural challenges not unlike what has become familiar in the U.S. over recent decades, with our citizenry decrying "the one percent," bailed-out bank failures, and politics directed by the wealthy while the middle class withers and shrinks." The Threepenny Opera depicts the subculture of cronyism and illegality that developed in London in the face of such challenges. American theatre critic Brooks Atkinson said, "The Threepenny Opera turns the accepted values of the good life upside down."
Composer Kurt Weill talked about "the importance of the sound-scape" in all his works, and Nadine Gordimer says, "Kurt Weill's music is not an accompaniment to Brecht's play, of course, but intrinsic to its conception." Weill developed songs characterized by raw intensity for the play, setting "reality to music" with a 1920's cabaret vibe. In fact, Threepenny likely inspired other plays such at Cabaret, Chicago and Urinetown.
The Plymouth State production will be totally acoustic, without microphones, and with instruments such as harmonium, piano, banjo, guitar, saxophone, clarinet and drums. In the initial production, seven musicians played 23 instruments according to Professor Kathleen Arecchi, music director. Arecchi says the music is more challenging for the cast than it seemed at first introduction. "The melodies alone were easy to learn, but when put together with the accompaniment, the singers became quite disoriented initially," she says. However, the dissonant music helps to set the time and place of the story.
Tickets for the play are $21 for adults and $18 for seniors and youth at the Silver Center Box Office, (603) 535-2787 or (800) 779-3869. Tickets are also available online at silver.plymouth.edu.