book by Elmer Rice lyrics by Langston Hughes music by Kurt Weill.
Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LX To 1 October.
22-24, 28-30 Sept, 1 Oct 7.30pm.
Mat 24 Sept 2pm, 28 Sept, 1 Oct 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
thenTour to 15 October 2011.
Runs 3hr One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 September.
opera of the streets; Wozzeck meets the American musical, in a terrific revival.
Chico and Harpo Marx joined in the ‘Tenement Symphony’ from 1941’s The Big Store. Five years later Broadway had a tenement opera too, when composer Kurt Weill and poet Langston Hughes worked with playwright Elmer Rice on an update of his 1929 drama of life among the poor in Lower East Manhattan.
More than physical temperatures boil over in the heatwave that’s hit Manhattan. Tempers flare and hopes flicker out; cries of pain can mean a baby born or someone killed, as daily life grinds on. Whether it’s by death or eviction, newcomers care only that somewhere to live has suddenly become vacant.
Meanwhile, nursemaids from richer parts take their prams to look at number 346 (on any mean street), where headline tragedy has erupted from everyday miseries. after the event, neighbours gossip while children’s games excitedly mimic the violence – a close matching the children’s game that ends Berg’s Wozzeck.
Ethnic differences stay beneath the surface but help ensure neighbours never get too close. And while overt political theorising comes from a minor character, the piece makes clear that the rich/poor divide brings pressures that lead to violence.
Weill’s score is quietly insistent on this. There are lighter moments; the dance-number ‘Moon-faced; Starry-eyed’, or adding to opera’s arias to a plane-tree, a table and a coat, an ensemble in praise of ice-cream.
But the thematic heart is the strange melodic outline and harmonic progressions of Sam’s solo ‘Lonely House’. These recur, not with Wagnerian development, but as a reference-point such as Puccini might have used. A fair amount of the musical language, while never being anything other than Weill’s own, has the sound of a latter-day Puccini.
John Fulljames’ production for the Young Vic and the Opera Group (Watford Palace has also been involved) has shattering force, with Dick Bird’s skeletal tenement (home to a visible orchestra) and flat cross-section street creating a blank environment on which the cast paint, with good performances and excellent singing, lives of quiet, and sometimes noisy, desperation in a piece that adds another dimension to the achievements of American musical theatre.
Frank Maurrant: Geoff Dolton.
Anna Maurrant: Elena Ferrari.
Rose Maurrant: Susanna Hurrell.
Willie Maurrant: Oscar O’Rahilly/Tyler Fagan.
Abraham Kaplan/Steve Sankey: Paul Featherstone.
Shirley Kaplan/Mae Jones: Kate Nelson.
Sam Kaplan: Paul Curievici.
Lippo Fiorentino/Dr Wilson: Joseph Shovelton.
Greta Fiorentino: Simone Sauphanor.
George Jones/Vincent Jones/Harry Easter: James McOran-Campbell.
Emma Jones/Nursemaid: Charlotte Page.
Carl Olsen: Paul Reeves.
Olga Olsen/Nursemaid: Harriet Williams.
Mrs Hildebrand: Joanna Foote.
Jennie Hildebrand: Eboni Dixon/Kate Nelson.
Charlie Hildebrand: Jordi Fray/Saul Friend.
Henry Davis/Dick McGann: John Moabi.
Daniel Buchanan: Nathan Vale.
Chorus (at Young Vic): from Lewisham choral Society, Wyvil Primary School, Vauxhall and Reay Primary School.
Director: John Fulljames.
Designer: Dick Bird.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Musical Director: Keith Lockhart/Tim Murray.
Choreographer: Arthur Pita
Revival choreographer: Yann Seabra.
Vocal coach: Sally Hague.
Assistant director: Joanna Turner.
Associate lighting: Sally Ferguson.
Associate sound: Sarah Weltman.
Assistant conductor: David Keeffe.