with Kurt Weill
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island
June 24 - July 3
I’ve always had trouble with musical revues. To turn a string
of songs into a piece of theatre means providing a narrative line
or inventing a (usually lame) story or structure, creating a set
and moving the actor/singers around the stage in some kind of dramatic
or choreographic relation to one another. Almost inevitably these
theatrical elements prove superfluous and the success or failure
of the show comes down to the quality of the music and the talent
of the performers.
This Equity Co-op production of Kurt Weill’s music boasts
a first-rate cast, a terrific band, and the great German composer
who collaborated with Bertolt Brecht on Threepenny
Opera and other
plays before fleeing the Nazis for New York where he worked with
Ira Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner and Maxwell Anderson among others.
Yet the show only half-succeeds.
Weill’s brilliant music, part cabaret and part operetta,
is rarely melodious, sometimes dissonant, and not easy to sing.
Katey Wright has a lovely voice and full control of the style,
and utterly shines with “Surabaya Johnny,” “Pirate
Jenny” and “That’s Him.” But Don Noble
loses his way on some of Weill’s best numbers like “Mack
the Knife” and “September Song.” Rebecca Codling
and Shawn Macdonald show some nice dance moves and both have sweet
voices, though at times hers is too small to be heard over the
band. Denis Simpson never seems fully comfortable as the narrator
who leads us chronologically through Weill’s life, but lights
up when he sings and dances.
Director Johnna Wright keeps the actors busy, sometimes sacrificing
Weill‘s dark irony for corny laughs on the large wooden spools
of Adam Parboosingh’s set which has no particular Weillian
resonance. But the music is always glorious (Alison Jenkins on
accordion, clarinet and trumpet, Kerry O’Donovan piano, Lyndon
Surjik bass, Jonathan Teague percussion), the dramatic intelligence
of ensemble pieces like “Alabama Song” wonderful, and
some songs like “Lost in the Stars” simply exquisite.