By David Templeton
Those unfamiliar with the work of composer Kurt Weill will no doubt have their eyes snapped wide open in surprise during the two sin-soaked hours of Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill, running now through Jan. 20 at the Cinnabar Theater. Weill, best known for The Threepenny Opera and other bold, modern collaborations with Bertolt Brecht during his early years in pre-war Berlin, was the John Steinbeck of European sleaze and debauchery, peopling his shows with hookers, alcoholics, thieves, murderers, gamblers and all forms of love-struck low-life.
As a kind of unofficial sequel to Cabaret–Cinnabar’s huge hit from two years ago–director Elizabeth Craven and musical director Nina Shuman have created a tight, two-part cabaret-style musical revue, driven by a strong cast of five singers who strut, prowl, slink and parade their way through some of Weill’s finest and best-known songs. The first act is a sin-tillating trip through Weill’s down-and-dirty Berlin operas, written while living in the early years of Nazi Germany. Then the show takes a jump forward to the far more refined world of New York and Broadway, where Weill worked with some of the United States.S.’ greatest literary figures to create a decade’s worth of hit Broadway shows.
Between the detailed program notes and the entertaining, trivia-packed narration of Jeff Coté, one can’t help but leave the theater with a Cliff’s Notes’ familiarity with Weill, including the side-note that the Doors once recorded a Weill cover, “The Alabama Song,” from The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which is showcased here in all its subversive anti-mainstream glory. In addition to Coté, the able cast includes tenor Andrew Cox, baritone Martin Bell, soprano Lara Bruckman and mezzo-soprano Julia Ulehla, the latter of whom steals the show twice with astoundingly entertaining, superbly acted renditions of “Surabaya Johnny” from Happy End, and “Pirate Jenny” from The Threepenny Opera. Berlin to Broadway, though occasionally uneven, is a solidly entertaining tribute to the man who gave us some of the wildest, most dangerous theatrical music ever written for the stage.
Berlin to Broadway concludes Friday-Saturday, Jan. 19-20, at the Cinnabar Theater. 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 8pm. Pre-show closing gala, Jan. 20 at 7pm; $10 extra. $23-$25. 707.763.8920.
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