Feb. 24 2016 12:17 AM

LCC goes steampunk in ‘The Threepenny Opera’

The singers inside Lansing Community College’s Dart Auditorium Friday night blew the roof off the place. I don’t mean that metaphorically.

When the production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera” ended, an announcement asked the exiting audience to walk through the adjacent building to the parking ramp to avoid pieces of falling roofing. It seems part of the roof had blown away.

There are those who might claim the damage was due to the wind gusts that reached a recorded 60 miles an hour in the area. But those who saw the play and heard the cast sing could find it reasonable to assume it was the singers and their resonant vocals who stressed the ceiling to destructive levels.

The not-quite-three-hour “Threepenny Opera” was not dominated by loud songs, though its length allowed a total of 24 tunes in two acts. But when vocalists like Teri Brown (as Jenny, an apparent madam) or Kelly McNabb (as Mrs. Peachum, as a terrible role model of a mother) sang, the interspersed songs were worth waiting for. Evil daddy Mr. Peachum (Travis Williams) and deceitful charmer Macheath (Zach Riley) provided their own resounding bellows. The play’s opening and closing featured a Las Vegas-style crooning version of “Mack the Knife,” featuring band member Jerry Krause, which added another layer of punch to the feisty play.

The 21-member cast always gave something to be entertained by, including costumes and accessories designed by Lynnette Velez and bizarre weaponry created by Ray Kurtis and Ian Griffin. The outfits were something like “Mad Max” meets “Sin City” at a renaissance festival sponsored by Victoria’s Secret. The costumes suited the post-apocalypse theme, and the unique and often outrageous make-up made sense in a world filled with individualistic survivors.

Decorative lighting on the stage — and even on many of the costumes — added to the show’s appeal. Attempted British accents were sometimes spot-on, sometimes inconsistent and sometimes muddled to a point where dialogue was hard to understand. But since it was easy to get lost in the visual and audio circus that paraded from the wings to the rafters to the apron, such complaints are petty.

The actors’ incidental actions, expressions and always-watchable movements can be credited to the watchful eye of director Connie Curran-Oesterle. And the elaborate multi-level, somewhat industriallooking set, designed by Renee Surprenant, was the perfect playground for an animated cast to vamp, dance, joke and sing on.

Despite the length of the play, LCC’s slightly modernized version of “The Threepenny Opera” did not seem tedious. Its ever-shifting displays of Keystone Cops-like antics, genuine emotion, silliness and heartbreak, all infused with dramatic music, made it easy to watch the spectacle instead of one’s watch.

Musical director John Dale Smith and his seven-piece orchestra performed flawlessly and with a professionalism befitting a much larger venue than the 480-seat Dart Auditorium. The band added class to a play about social classes. It was regrettable that a crowd only about the size one might expect at a new Chi Chi’s grand opening heard their opening-night performance.

The truly memorable set design, physical acting, potent singing and unusual and outstanding costumes deserves a packed house. It’s worth the risk of being — dare I say it? — blown away.

“The Threepenny Opera”

LCC Theatre Program 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26 and Saturday, Feb. 27; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28 $15/$10 seniors, LCC faculty and staff/$5 students. Dart Auditorium 500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing (517) 483-1488, lcc.edu/showinfo

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