Rock me, â€Ë"Amadeus’

Lakewood knows the score of Mozart play

By Steve Dunkelberger on April 5, 2007

A lesser person would think that a play named “Amadeus” would be about that composer dude who wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” before he had his first blemish and hammered out the score of some of the world’s best musical works before he had the obligation to shave his face. Certainly, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart deserves his props, but this play isn’t about him in the slightest, truth be told. He is just a bit actor in a play that bears his name.



When the Lakewood Playhouse announced last spring that it was staging “Amadeus,“ I thought of it as an odd choice for the otherwise meat-and-potatoes theater. But I’ll eat crow on this one. Lakewood Playhouse chose correctly.



The Oscar and Tony Award-winning story is a tale that pulls audiences in slowly, like a boa slowly and stealthily squeezing a mouse to death. The story loops around the audience and tightens ever so slowly and gradually as it follows the self-narrated story of Antonio Salieri, the accomplished and celebrated court conductor who sees trouble when a brilliant, young composer arrives in town.



Salieri is noted and talented, but he sees the brilliance that Mozart possesses and yearns to match it. But it is not to be, so Salieri grows jealous of the rising star. Bitterness sets in and crumbles the once great composer. The God-fearing Salieri considers Mozart’s music perfectly divine and begins questioning his faith over contemplation of the fact that although Mozart certainly has talent, he is also a vulgar and truly low person. Salieri spins into madness over the idea that God would give Mozart such talent and leave one of his true followers only a modest talent in the art of music.



The story is best known for the 1984 film version that won eight Oscars five years after the play version took to a stage. The trick to having this play work is to make sure Mozart doesn’t grab all of the attention, which is sort of tough since he is the only known person in the cast and the play is named after him.



Lakewood makes it work.



Its keystone is the depth of talent of Scott C. Brown in the role of Salieri. He is brilliant in the way he transforms between a younger to an older man with a few nuances in his body language as the play unfolds through a series of flashbacks and narratives.



The list of Brown’s favorite roles gives a glimpse of his mind. He likes the tough roles, and this ranks among them. He was Capt. Markinson in “A Few Good Men,” Friar Lawrence in “Romeo and Juliet,” the Creature in “Frankenstein” and Porthos in last year’s staging of “The Three Musketeers.”



Bryan K. Bender, for the record, plays Mozart. He is OK — not bad, not great. He gets the job done.



I have to give a big shout out to Alex Lewingston, who not only plays the bit role of Teresa Salieri but also did a wonderful job with the costumes. They are amazingly intricate and add to the show the way few wardrobes ever do. This play hinges on the fact that it has to draw audiences into believing they are entering a long-ago time and a faraway place. Lewingston’s costumes do the job so well I think I got the plague just from sitting in the audience. This is a show to be seen and talked about.



“Amadeus” plays at the Lakewood Playhouse through April 22, with productions at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday. The theater is located at 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. Tickets are $14 to $20 and available by calling 253.588.0042 or visiting: www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.



Steve Dunkelberger has covered the South Sound theater scene for 13 years.  He can be reached at viewfromthecheapseats@bigfoot.com or at his virtual voice mail at 320.216.5007.