THE MUSIC MAN
With Seán Martinfield
A.C.T's "Happy End" - Beyond belief!
June 15, 2006
HAPPY END, a music-theatre piece by composer Kurt Weill
and with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, is the final offering of the
American Conservatory Theater's 2005-06 season. Since its 1929
Berlin premiere, the work has been described as a "relative
failure" and as a "setback" for Brecht. This production
sports an adaptation of both lyrics and book by longtime A.C.T.
collaborator Michael Feingold. Turning to her opening letter in
the program (pressed with an "Opening Night" gold seal),
Artistic Director Carey Perloff describes HAPPY END as "remarkable"
and credits Mr. Feingold for helping to "resuscitate it for
American audiences." Oh, yes - leave it to the Americans
and their sense of One-Upmanship! This production of HAPPY END
is an unmistakable failure and an absolute setback for San Francisco's
theatrical scene. As the production's director, Carey Perloff
has proved her skills to be on a par with those of an elevator
operator - an increasingly obsolete position.
QUALIFIER: I left at the conclusion of Act One.
After a little less than 50 minutes of sheer torture, there was
no reason to stay for Act 2. A suspended electric sign alerting
the audience to song titles and predicaments ("a ticklish
situation", etc.) finally printed out: INTERMISSION.
"Thank God!" I said to my partner, Tom.
"I'm out of here," he responded. "Stay if you
Since 8:05 - given our sustained tension and numbing disbelief,
and within a hefty radius of neighbors sitting on their hands
and all - it was, admittedly, an enthusiastic exchange.
By 8:15, HAPPY END was churning downwards to the first floor of
Amateur Land - specifically after a lack-luster rendition of "The
Bilbao Song" as rendered by wooden-voiced Sab Shimono (the
original "Ito" of Angela Lansbury's MAME), along with
equally dull Justin Leath ("Baby Face"), the ineffectual
Peter Macon ("Bill Cracker"), and everyone else in this
vocally deplorable, musically impotent group (including the ubiquitous
Charles Dean) referred to as "the Gang" - all under
the feeble baton of Conductor and Music Director Constantine Kitsopoulos.
Coming in as close Second, the awkward and self-conscious Charlotte
Cohn ("Hallelujah Lil") and the forced energy of her
seduction scene with Black gangster, "Bill Cracker".
Between her colorless, irritating soprano and quivering vibrato
came the stupefying lyrics of "The Sailors' Tango".
That was a tango? Somebody wake up the doddering Peter Macon!
Or, maybe, choreographer John Carrafa.
By contrast, kudos to dominatrix Linda Mugleston as "The
Fly". Given the silliness of the script, Ms. Mugleston was
way above her material. Nice voice. And a great pair of gams.
I have never been so angry upon leaving the Theater. Better entertainment
exists on the Muni platform.
Tom was beaming. "Good news! Our transfers are still valid."