Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rock Me, Amadeus! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Bart and I were at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater tonight. However, we did not see a tale from the Bard. Each season they produce a work by other playwrights. For instance, a Moliere play. But tonight we saw Amadeus by Peter Schaffer.

I had seen the movie. Many times. I even saw its re-release in the movie theater. It's truly a remarkable film. Naturally being able to see the source, the play, appealed to me greatly. For that I had not seen. Nor had I read it. Bart has read it, but tonight premiered it live for him as well.

It did not disappoint. As I knew, the stage version is a different from the cinema. However, Peter Shaffer also penned the screenplay. From that standpoint, it proved interesting to see what cuts he made and how he chose to expand it. For example, the scene where Amadeus replicates and improves Salieri's welcoming march. In the play, Mozart does not add his flourishes and tweaks until after the Emperor and others have gone. But Salieri is still around, of couse. Characters were cut and likewise introduced. Entire scenes, as well. Of course. Though expected, it still proved fascinating to see his choices in being able to "open it up" and re-explore.

But back to Chicago Shakespeare, they consistently deliver a marvelous show. Though always wonderful, this time the costumes alone were applause-worthy. My word! Impeccably period, with details rich and colorful. Truly artistic and accurate with welcome exaggerated hints now and then. The "corker" for me, however, had been that each Mozart and Salieri had many different outfits! By which I mean the costumes were so gorgeous that one look for each man would have sufficed for the evening. But to have a few exquisitely crafted pieces? Each? Bravo!

It is, of course, really Salieri's story. So you need a very strong actor to carry the monologue heavy show. Robert Sella had us all taking note from the moment he shouted, "MOZART!" And it's his Chicago Shakespeare debut. Bravo! But then, without a strong mischievous master musician for him to play against...and sure enough Robbie Collier Sublett provided one. It's his debut for this esteemed ( 2008 Regional Theatre Tony Award Winner) theatre company as well. Bravo! Also, I must say that both gentleman made the roles their own. They did not remind me in the least of the film version. And yet I fully believed and accepted them as their characters. Fantastic. Thank you, sirs! And of course, thank you to the whole cast. Honestly, everyone is superb. The performance we attened received an immediate standing ovation.

All in all, though, I believe I like the movie better. Perhaps because I saw it first. But I do not mean to belittle the play. It achieves a level that the movie never could, simply by being the magic of live theatre. And it's extremely well done (both script and CST's staging). I enjoy them both. But if I had to choose, I'd pick the movie. Maybe just because for what it can achieve in terms of opulence and location that the stage cannot. One's best bet is to see both. :)

Bart and I had an unexpected treat, albeit at someone else's expense. At intermission, a woman asked me "How many are in your party? Is it just the two of you?" She gave us their seats because her mother did not feel well and they had to leave. Bart and I have wonderful seats from our Season Tickets. We're in the last row, just a step off center to the left. Last row, however, of a very small section. CST is quite inimtate. The seats we inherited for the evening? Front row, right on the ailse. Thus, we enjoyed the powerful second act even closer to the action. Actors stood literally right next to us in the thick of the scene. It also meant I could examine those intricate costumes. Thank you, kind woman, whoever you are! I hope your mother is feeling better.

If you're in the Chicago area, I highly recommend the Chicago Shakespeare Theater's staging of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, directed by Gary Griffin. Bravo! It runs through November 9.

"Well-there it is." - Emperor Joseph II

*The pictures I use I obtained from the CST website. For those concerned, I mean no harm in reposting them, I only am doing so to promote their amazing show. The photo is by Michael Brosilow.


C.J. Redwine said...

What a wonderful night! I absolutely adore live theatre.

C.J. Redwine said...

Well, thanks. Now I have that song STUCK in my head.

I blame you.