UVic’s Phoenix Theatre takes on the Three Penny Opera, a loose adaptation of the 18th-century Beggar’s Opera, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.
In the musical play, Brecht takes aim at the traditional bourgeoisie, revealing a society where law is fickle, money corrupts and crime pays.
In this adaptation, director Brian Richmond (Blue Bridge Theatre) has set the stage for 2028 under the premise of a collapsed world economy.
“There’s a lot of embedded anger, what’s different between now and those times is we have managed to avert cataclysmic crisis,” Richmond said in an interview with the Oak Bay News.
The musical saga follows the villainous but irresistible MacHeath, or, Mack the Knife (Lindsay Robinson), as he marries the impressionable and innocent Polly Peacham (Pascal Lamothe-Kipnes) – much to the displeasure of her parents – while continuing his illicit relationship with his mistress, Lucy Brown (Haley Garnett).
As is typical with a Phoenix production, the cast is large – 20, including professional actor Shauna Baird, and excellent seven piece band led by music director Hank Pine. With choreography by founder of the Canadian College of Performing Arts’ Jacques Lemay, this student cast hit the boards with some serious professional support – which is a good thing, because the show runs over three hours plus two intermissions.
On opening night, the cast, in general, began a bit cold but as the full house responded with generous applause, the company seemed to relax into their performances. The musical numbers were well done with Robinson and Lamothe-Kipnes each warming up and becoming more engaging with each song. Only Garnett seemed immediately at ease on the stage and entered as a refreshing breath of air in Act II.
While Baird’s performance as Mr. Peachum, leader of a gang of beggars, is solid I would have preferred to see a student showcased in the role.
The star of this show is costume designer Jacqueline Gilchrist. A fourth-year design student, this was her first time designing for the main stage and she and her team knocked it out of the park.
The costumes were black and white and red all over while making liberal use of plastic, netting, duct tape and cardboard – all culminating with an appearance by the Queen (Nathan Patterson), which was a highlight of my theatre-going season so far.
Lyrics and language in the show are not for the faint of heart but those willing to withstand some edgy verbiage will be rewarded with a fast-paced play full of wry-wit and commendable performances, not only from the leads, but from the ensemble members who each take on a persona and appear to have some fun with their characters. Standouts among them include Nicholas Guerreiro (Matt) and Shea O’Connor (Ned).
The Three Penny Opera continues at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre to Nov. 21.