BWW Reviews: Miners Alley's THE THREE PENNY OPERA Plays It Too Safe
Miners Alley Playhouse presents THE THREE PENNY OPERA playing now through October 21st in Golden, CO. A milestone of 20th Century musical theater, THE THREE PENNY OPERA is a biting satire of the post-war rise of capitalism, wrapped up in Weill's jazzy score and the tale of Macheath (Mack the Knife), a debonair crime lord on the verge of turning his illegal empire into a legitimate business. When Macheath marries Polly Peachum, her father, Jonathan Peachum, is greatly angered. Jonathan Peachum controls the beggars of London, and he strives to get Macheath hanged. Peachum exerts considerable political influence, and eventually Macheath is arrested and imprisoned. At the point of execution, in an unrestrained parody of a happy ending, a hard-riding messenger from the Queen dramatically arrives at the last minute, and Macheath is pardoned, and elevated to the title of Baron.
There is a reason that colleges across the US love to do this musical - it's a fun, raunchy social satire where the sky's the limit and you can be as dirty as you want to be. Unfortunately Miners Alley played it a little too safe in their interpretation of this naughty production. While the voices were lovely, the show as a whole needed to be a little more over the top and desperately needed some melodrama in order for the sarcastic humor of Brecht to shine. One perfect example of this was MacHeath's entourage, who were fun, but subdued. Had they been more bumbling and over the top, it would have been hilarious and had they had a eccentric gay character, the audience would have been in stitches. The menacing opening number was very good, but the show seemed to loose its way after that. What it really needed was more audience interaction and even though Act II let the humor out of the bag, Act I also needed a piece of that. Ultimately, I think that a British or Cockney accent would have really brought out those whimsical lines and further enhanced the performances One a complete side note, I have to say that I found the entire micromanagement of the homeless and peddling situation brought out in this play ironic, since we essentially do the same thing here in Denver with the selling of the Denver Voice newspaper (which I wholeheartedly applaud and support).
I loved the simplicity of the scenic design by Richard H. Pegg. It was industrial meets bohemian sheik and the vintage posters were a nice touch. Erin Leanord really brought out the range from raunchy to sophistication with all the fabulous costumes and gave each character a well rounded look. Direction by El Armstrong was adequate but I do have too hold him accountable for missing obvious comedic moments of the sarcasm and irony that is Brecht. Also the lack of energetic inertia that made the play seem stilted at times and an infusion of Fosse would have helped the choreography out greatly. Boni McIntyre as the music director picked some great singers for this show and the music was good. Just watch those levels on the keyboard so it doesn't drown out the singers.
Megan Van de Hey as Low Dive Jenny and cast