Bawdy, wicked humour and vivid social commentary.
This production reimagined John Gay's 1728 English opera with new dialogue and musical arrangements, while respecting his original vision. Over 30 cast and musicians entertained audiences at 8 performances in 2016.
"Hilarious but poignant".
"Great for all ages".
"Fabulous music. Incredible this story was written in the 1720's!"
"Enlightening and entertaining."
John Gay's The Beggar's Opera took London by storm when it opened on 29 January 1728. It is acknowledged as the first music theatre piece ever performed and is called "one of the most genuinely original works in the history of theatre" (Grove's Musical Dictionary). Gay wrote it to parody the operas written by his good friend George Frideric Handel. It paved the way for Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas and our modern music theatre. After watching a 1920s revival in London, Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill created the internationally successful adaptation, The Threepenny Opera.
John Gay, was a poet and playwright. He gathered together a collection of popular songs from throughout Europe, wrote new words, and linked them with a story using topical dialogue and characters. Because there was no composer, a revival needed to borrow an existing arrangement or create a new one.
Having Peter Alexander create the musical arrangements was a stroke of good fortune:
"Taking Johann Pepusch’s overture as a model, my trusted team and I, scored the songs for strings, oboes and keyboard continuo. Some numbers were excluded and some extended or altered for specific effect. The resulting musical fabric is unique and, I hope, pleasing to the ear and occasionally stimulating for the funnybone!"
Artistic Director’s thoughts:
After the success of The Yeomen of the Guard, FAMS Theatre Company gave me the chance to direct The Beggar’s Opera. I recruited the production team from Yeomen and together we created a highly successful show.
One of the delights for me during the creation of Beggar’s was to watch talented singers who had little acting experience develop their skills and create assured on-stage characters.
I did feel a twinge of guilt when the delightful tenor Wolf van Kehler watched a video of his very convincing performance of Macheath - the womaniser and most notorious criminal from 18th century London. He finally understood why the audience cheered when it looked like he was going to be hung – so convincing was his performance.
Beautiful young Yasmin Arkinstall was an experienced singer and dancer but had never played an acting role. Her transformation into the complex heroine Polly was remarkable – managing a disarming cockney accent and intricate stage directions with ease - an amazing talent blossomed.
Similarly Nick Whiley, an accomplished baritone with no stage experience, developed a great highwayman personae. Our military veterans Steve Donald and Geoff Seis gave Nick munitions training - they were fantastic assets to our team.
While the original satirical references to Sir Robert Walpole and corrupt politicians of the day weren't familiar to modern audiences, the sharp digs at aristocrats, lawyers and corrupt prison officers were easily understood.
Peter Alexander, Musical Director, was ably assisted by his 'trusted lieutenants' - the late Gareth Chan, Narelle French, Prue Gibbs and Stephanie Holmes.
"They all deserve enormous praise and my deepest thanks."
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