Amadeus Gives Insight into Musical Genius (4 Stars)
by Johnny Monsarrat
Amadeus, Produced by Sharman Altshuler, Directed by Allison Olivia Choat, with Music Director Dan Rodriguez, Period Music Consultant Thomas Carroll, Stage Manager Emily Cuerdon, Production Manager Julie Marie Langevin, Technical Director Brian Melcher, Master Electrician Nathanial Jewett, Set Design / Properties Master Cameron McEachern, Combat Choreographer Allison Olivia Choat, Lighting Design Jeffrey E. Salzberg, Sound Design David Wilson, Costume Designer David Lucey, and Wig Designer Peter Mill, with Musical Performances by Grand Harmonie, with Yoni Kahn, Orchestra Manager.
You’ve seen the movie, of course. Now see the stage show! Amadeus spans 15 years in the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, perhaps the best composer of all time, and his rival Antonio Salieri. Will Salieri’s greater power in the Emperor’s court and his deviousness outflank Mozart’s naive brilliance? And above all, which one will time remember?
The play comes with stunning costumes (David Lucey) and wigs (Peter Mill), which along with the old timey flourishes and bows put you right back into the 18th century. Strong acting, especially by lead Matthew Zahnzinger (Salieri), made the first act of the play riveting. The actors even pantomime playing the piano on stage, while prerecorded music plays. You are genuinely carried back to a former era and wrapped up in court intrigue. They make you feel like the challenge to outdo each other composing music is a world-shattering race.
The play is filled with bold choices, such as having characters occasionally speak in Italian or other languages. But it’s also a very long play with a lot of exposition. You’ve heard the saying, “show, don’t tell” when it comes to writing a story. Amadeus is filled with lines such as, “I entered the library to take first a little refreshment”, which I suppose communicate the scene but are unnecessary. The staging itself is minimal and the lighting standard, but the acting and script don’t need fancy dressing to keep you in the past.
Ultimately, the play was just too damn long… more than 3 hours including the intermission. What started as fascination gave way to boredom, as though the playwright couldn’t help but include every detail from Mozart’s life instead of focusing on the highlights. Even Salieri’s wicked plot becomes a bore as he drones on and on about his reasons and intentions, and actors even bring out evidence from newspaper clippings that Salieri actually claimed to kill Mozart in real life. That’s fine, but these things are really slowing down the plot. And the play wasn’t the celebration of music with long songs that I’d hoped for. You get some passages, but it’s not filled with music like we expect a film set in the 1960s to be filled with 1960s music.
Amadeus is worth seeing, but not if you’re tired. And they need to work on the ocold temperature. Still, you can’t go wrong rooting for Mozart, especially if you love music and history. You will learn a lot! It is almost a biography. This play, if adapted for a shorter length and with less throway and rambling dialogue, has great 5-star potential and I can see why it made such a compelling movie. This production I can only give 4 stars, sadly.
For more, see www.moonboxproductions.org.