It’s always been the innovative musical that I’d seen referenced in tons of books and articles but never had the chance to see myself…until tonight.
I’ve always been intrigued by the history of this show. It’s considered “Marxist” for its send-up of capitalism. The musical with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, composed by Kurt Weill, and featuring Weill’s wife Lotte Lenya, premiered in Berlin in 1928. It was a German musical then, based on The Beggar’s Opera, written two hundred years earlier, and in English, in 1728. The production I saw tonight was translated back to English from German. It was also so relevant to what is going on in this country at this particular moment in time that it’s rather astonishing to know the 1928 musical version started out in democratic Weimar Germany, right before the Nazis seized power.
Threepenny Opera makes its sociological points in a hilarious manner. Mack the Knife is a leader of a gang of thieves and also cold-blooded serial killer, if one with a lot of charisma. He marries the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peachum, who have unofficially unionized all the beggars of London, assigning them territories and forcing them to pay graft. When their daughter marries Mack, they plot to get him arrested and sentenced to hang. It’s complicated by his friendship with a constable who knows what Mack is and protects him.
Mack, the Peachums and their known associates are not exactly the planet’s most sterling group. Everybody’s doing something that they’re not supposed to and they’re all profiting from it. They’re all ready to buy or sell one another at the drop of a hat. Doesn’t that sound like the current situation we’ve got on our hands on Wall Street?
If you’re in the New York City area, don’t miss this. Be on the lookout for the numbers “The Ballad of Mack the Knife” and “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” The link for tickets is: