BWW Review: WAHNSINN! THE WOLFGANG PETRY MUSICAL at Theater Am Potsdamer Platz - A commercial product created to please the masses.

BWW Review: WAHNSINN! THE WOLFGANG PETRY MUSICAL at Theater Am Potsdamer Platz - A commercial product created to please the masses.DISCLAIMER: I am not a fan of Wolfgang Petry's or "Schlager" Music. The attending audience, who were fans of Schlager and Mr. Petry's music, enjoyed themselves.

"Schlager" Music is a phenomenon in German-Speaking Europe that doesn't have a direct equivalent anywhere else in the world. Schlager comes from the German word schlagen (to Beat). Roughly translated, Schlager Music is "music with a beat." In practice, Schlager is a hybrid between German Folk Music and Disco. Nearly every song has a dance-tempo beat, simple lyrics, and sing-a-long melodies. Wolfgang Petry, a Schlager Superstar is a prime example of Schlager Music at it's most innocuous and commercial. WAHNSINN! is a new Jukebox Musical that dresses up the interchangeable songs by Mr. Petry with a very clever set design, colorful costumes, interesting choreography and a couple of memorable performances. This is a shameless commercial enterprise solely created to pander to the broadest possible swath of the enormous German Schlager Audience.

WAHNSINN! is saved from utter meaninglessness almost single-handedly through the talents of Enrico De Pieri as Peter (the nominal lead) in the show. Mr. De Pieri imbues Mr. Petry's superficial songs with more gravity than they deserve and creates a believable character with genuine emotion that the audience could care about. Of the main cast, Mr. De Pieri is the only performer who transcended this mediocre material he was given. He is, by far, the best singer onstage, with a very pleasant voice and excellent diction. Many of Mr. De Pieri's colleagues were unintelligible during most of their songs. This was partly due to the poor sound design by Cedric Beatty, which often buried the singers under a drum beat that annihilated their vocals and more often was the result of extremely poor diction.

In addition to Mr. De Pieri, there were a couple of members of the Ensemble who gave excellent performances in small roles which added greatly to the evening's success. Nina Janke as an extremely funny Travel Agent and Eiko Keller as a Danish Police officer were standouts in the ensemble. However, you should keep your eye on Joana Henrique who played numerous smaller roles in the show. Her Airport Security Officer and her performance as a frustrated lesbian during the show's best number, the "Women's Medley" in Act One, nearly stopped the show. This young woman has a tremendous stage presence and I predict a great future for this young character actress.

As to the other lead roles in WAHNSINN! most of their work was as interchangeable and forgettable as Mr. Petry's music. They did the jobs they were supposed to do. Nothing more and nothing less. Detlef Leistenschneider and Jessica Kessler had good comic timing, even if their songs mostly fell flat.

Director Gil Mehmert staged the show well and kept it moving at a brisk pace. The script, by Heiko Wohlgemuth, was at times very funny. At nearly 3 hours, the show was at least 30 minutes too long. Act One had 18 musical numbers. 8 or 9 of those songs could easily have been cut without damaging the show. "Less is more."

Simon Eichenberger's choreography was clever, inventive and very well executed by the show's hard-working ensemble. The Light and Video designs by Michael Grundner and Thomas Reimer were both good. The real star of this show, however, was the extremely versatile and very attractive set by Heike Meixner. If there is a prize for set design for a touring production, Ms. Meixner should win it.

BWW Review: WAHNSINN! THE WOLFGANG PETRY MUSICAL at Theater Am Potsdamer Platz - A commercial product created to please the masses.

The onstage band played Mr. Petry's songs the way his fans wanted to hear them. Someone should remind the musicians that they are visible to the audience, and should refrain from looking as bored as they do throughout most of the show.

WAHNSINN! will be on tour throughout most of the next year.

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From This Author Mark Janicello

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