“Oh, the line forms on the right, dears, now that Mackie’s back in town!” These words have become famous in our part of the world. Marc Blitzstein spun them off from Bertolt Brecht’s into something new while Kurt Weill’s 1920s-jazz-like music grinds, thrusts and seethes, needing no translation. Welcome to the ironics and the familiar tunes of The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) the 1928 apple-cart upsetter which has been thriving ever since around the globe. Blitzstein’s take on the original’s book and lyrics smashed New York attendance records back in the late 50s. Now UNO Theatre takes on the challenge, maybe in your face. Control your urge to dance in the aisles.
Victorian London was the setting, reverberating with parallels to decaying Germany. It moved Brecht and Weill where they lived, seeing the economy beginning to shiver and shake. The writer and composer found sharp-edged satire in a new kind of musical theatre echoing the decadence of cabaret via Weill’s angular harmonies and Brecht’s seething words. Theatre revolution. A slash and sneer at capitalism’s evils. Pointing to middle-class aspirations in a place going increasingly mad amid rigid moral values whose words don’t match deeds. Cut-throat competition to the max.
Does it surprise you then, friend, that Mack wields a knife? Stay clear, just in case he changes his mind about deciding to give up murder, burglary and robbing to relocate into vestiges of respectability.
Nor should it seem surprising to encounter a bare-bones orchestra. Doran Schmidt leads five musicians with a pair of horns, two reeds, a piano and percussion. 22 people populate the stage, one of whom comes from outside University terrain. Brecht-savvy Doug Paterson is the director.
The ThreePenny Opera runs Nov. 18-21 and Dec. 2-5 UNO Theatre, Weber Fine Arts Building, UNO, 6001 Dodge Street. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $6-16. UNO students: free. www.unomaha.edu/unotheatre