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BWW Review: Syracuse Stage's Stunning Production of AMADEUS Opens and Closes all in one Historical Performance

BWW Review: Syracuse Stage's Stunning Production of AMADEUS Opens and Closes all in one Historical Performance
The company of the Syracuse Stage production of Amadeus.
Photo by Mike Davis.

Syracuse Stage's stunning production of Amadeus under the always meticulous direction of Robert Hupp opened on Friday, March 13, 2020 and also closed on the same night due to the coronavirus outbreak. The decision to suspend the rest of the production's run was a choice that Hupp told the audience "was the right thing to do." Although Governor Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people, the Archbold Theater seats 499 so the board technically had the choice. They made the right, yet very tough choice like so many theaters across the country.

Knowing that the opening would be the last performance of the stellar production, Syracuse Stage is offering exclusive online access to subscribers and ticket holders to view the recording of Amadeus on a to be announced date. The local and trusted media enterprise WCNY came to the rescue and provided a videographer to record the performance so that those who purchased tickets for later in the run would have the opportunity to experience the brilliant play.

Playwright Peter Shaffer rewrote Amadeus six times and Syracuse Stage's production features the final version. The play is set mostly in Vienna at the court of Emperor Joseph II. The play speculates if the artistic rivalry and jealousy of composer Antonio Salieri led to the murder on one of the world's greatest composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the play it is Salieri who asks this question in his last musical composition. The story explores the mystery and murder of the genius composer Mozart in a mesmerizing production under the superb direction of Robert Hupp that showcased top-notch actors and brilliant artistic elements.

Syracuse Stage's set designs never disappoint and this one was no exception. Scenic designer Misha Kachman brought an inspiring and detailed design and layout to the play. Kachman's design was inspired by a box of chocolates that holds a round confection called Mozartkugel. The chocolate comes in a box that features a picture of Mozart in a red jacket and wearing a white wig. This picture covered the floor and stage left in series of portraits. The detail of this unique design along with Dawn Chiang's lighting was a definite highlight and provides a great backdrop for Salieri to think back thirty years of his jealousy and rivalry he had with Mozart.

Tracy Dorman's costume designs and Rob Picken's wigs made each individual character stand out. Dorman uses the costumes colors as metaphors to differentiate between each principal role (Dorman explains in Playbill). The result was dazzling, detailed, and memorable.

The casting was top-notch as these amazing actors delivered a performance that they and the audience will certainly not forget. The emotion they must have been feeling delivering their roles for this performance is unimaginable. The result was perfection.

Jason O'Connell, as Antonio Salieri, delivered a chilling and powerful performance. Before the performance even officially began O'Connell was seated in a wheelchair on stage still as can be. The audience then realized he has been sitting there all along. He presented himself as the bitter and aging Salieri then quickly and easily transformed himself into the vigorous, young man he was thirty years before. O'Connell had a commanding stage presence, beautiful and full line delivery, and a connection to his audience that can not be put into words. His performance was outstanding as he created the jealousy and torment that resulted in Salieri's renunciation of God for choosing Mozart as his channel of beauty. He took the audience with him as the fictionalized story is told from the time he first encountered Mozart all the way to Mozart's final breath.

Taking on the role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was Mickey Rowe who returns to Syracuse Stage after receiving critical and popular claim as Christopher Boone in the production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Rowe is a natural physical and acrobatic actor so of course it was spot on casting. He effortlessly captured the animated, childish, out of control, and potty-mouthed Mozart. Rowe wowed and entertained the audience with Mozart's over-the-top antics and personality. His high snickering laugh charmed. Rowe literally threw himself into this role and, like Mozart, was a standout performer. His convincing portrayal was mesmerizing as he showed off his acting range as he portrayed the animated, full of life, and spunky Mozart and penniless dying genius.

Lisa Helmi Johanson, as Constanze Weber, lit up the stage with her fiery, spunky, and confident energy and superb line delivery. She was, without a doubt, making the most of this final performance of the role. Her flirtatious energy and chemistry with Rowe was believable as they played their silly games. Johanson truly dazzled in the role.

Other standouts included Avery Glymph as Emperor Joseph II who delivered a commanding and humorous performance. His one-liner "there it is" brought down the house every time. Blake Segal as Venticello 1 and Jeff Gonzalez as Venticello 2 brought much humor and charm as they kept Salieri informed of Mozart's doings. Ames Adamson as Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg and Bill Christ as Count Johann Kilian von Strack both showcase superb line delivery and chemistry. Michael Breese Barbour as Kapellmeister Bonno was memorable as well. The production also featured a few lucky and talented Syracuse University drama student performers delivering professional and standout performances.

The amount of time so many put into rehearsals, set design, set construction, direction, and everything else that goes into a production did not go unnoticed. It is wonderful that ticketholders will have the chance to view the recording of this amazing performance that showcases impeccable acting and beautiful artistry. The choice to suspend the rest of the performances by Syracuse Stage is an incredibly noble and responsible choice in a time such as this.

Running time: Approximately two hours and fifty minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Syracuse Stage's production of Amadeus was scheduled to run from March 11, 2020 through March 29, 2020. It opened and closed on March 13, 2020 and suspended the rest of the run due to the coronavirus outbreak. Syracuse Stage is located at 820 E. Genesee Street, Syracuse, New York. For information on Syracuse Stage, click here.

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