BWW Review: DAS BARBECÜ at the Spotlighters

Take a big ole slab of Norse Mythology, pound it with Wagner's musical hammer, marinate it in Texas Hot Sauce, and then fire it up at the Spotlighters, the little theater with the big heart, where the main course is now DAS BARBECÜ, a wild and wacky homage to the epic opera, The Ring Cycle,

Back in the old days, uber-composer Richard Wagner wrote the biggest, longest, loudest operas known to the Germanic world. The Ring Cycle was a thunderous four day event that shook the golden rafters of palaces in neighboring Austria and Prussia. It featured a cast of hundreds and a huge orchestra. Here in the new world, there is only one place big enough to stand in for Valhalla, the hall of the Gods, and surrounding fjords-Texas, of course.

The Lone Star State is the setting of DAS BARBECÜ, a comical country-western version of Der Ring der Nibelungen (The Ring of the Dwarves), where five actors play thirty characters along with a band. Because, why not? The music is catchy, but the real fun is watching the actors (referred to numerically) slip in and out of character, singing, dancing and romancing all the while. The talented cast has such an infectious sense of joy and humor, you may find yourself toe-tapping along with them.

This Texas tall tale takes a cliff notes approach to the original story, which is so labyrinthine audience members still can't find their way out. Wotan (Jim Gross, Actor 4), one-eyed King of the Gods lives in a gargantuan mansion with his wife, Frika (Andrea Bush, Actor 2), sharp-tongued goddess of hearth and family. Ironically, her husband has a roving eye and leaves a slew of offspring all over the place. These include the hapless, half-mortal Siegfried (Rob Wall, Actor 5) and sleeping beauty/Valkyrie Brünnhilde (Clare Kneebone, Actor 3). Naturally, these two are in love, what with Siegfried literally walking through the fire for her. Unfortunately, somewhere on the way to his next adventure, Siegfried gets tricked into falling for marriage-obsessed Gutrune (Allison Comotto, Actor 1).

And that's just the beginning of a whole mess of dysfunctional families and toxic relationships. The parade of characters includes a chorus of cowgirls, evil height-challenged metal-workers, mermaids turned into synchronized swimmers, giant construction workers, gypsies, tramps and thieves. J.R. Ewing and the folks over at Dallas have nothing over this gang power-mongers. The Housewives of Anywhere would be trampled by the army of Texas rangers aka Warrior Maidens. Oh, and there's that dang gold ring of power which changes more hands than a hot potato and curses the whole dern lot of them.

Thanks to the tight direction of Greg Bell and the quick-change artistry of scenic designer, Alan Zemla, and his excellent crew, the show covers the mountain of material without missing a beat. And there's also lively musical accompaniment under the direction of multi-talented Michael Tan. Gross, Bush, Kneebone, Wall, and Comotto approach all their roles with gusto. And as added spice, there is true romantic chemistry between the couples.

Parody aside, I was actually moved when Brünnhilde finds her inner warrior princess and sets out to end the curse once and for all. In the end, the heap of bodies and buildings proves even the grandest dreams succumb to the destructive power of greed and igonorance. Götterdämmerung, indeed.

DAS BARBECÜ runs now thru October 30 at the Spotlighters Theatre, 817 Saint Paul St. For tickets and more information, go to www.spotlighters.org or call 410-752-1225.



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From This Author Tina Collins