The absorption of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera into modern pop culture (its antihero, Macheath, is the subject of the instantly familiar "Mack the Knife") has diluted its bitter socialist critique, demonstrating the paradoxical gulf between the populist and the popular. But 70 years after its debut, German actor-chanteur Dominique Horwitz has rearranged the poor man's operetta top to bottom, setting some of the songs as sly jazz tunes and some as rougher rock numbers, as if to rescue them from the syrupy, ingenuous renditions of Vegas lounge singers and take them back to the cabaret--or at least to a contemporary equivalent. The 41-year-old Horwitz, who played the devil Pegleg in Tom Waits's The Black Rider and whose last project was a one-man show from the Jacques Brel songbook, has the large-caliber projectile of a voice needed to pull this off; he slathers on theatricality like house paint, at times verging on campiness. For the rockier pieces, like "Polly's Lied" ("Polly's Song," and yes, they're all performed in German), imagine Scott Walker singing along with PJ Harvey's music. MIDI guitarist Armin Pokorn, bassist Uli Messerschmidt, and drummer Wolfgang Ekholt are mostly fine, with a brooding, stereotypically Teutonic severity, but they have equally stereotypical problems when they try to get down and get funky, as they do on "Eifersuchtsduett" ("Jealousy Duet")--a snippet of "Smoke on the Water" at the end hits the stupidity bull's-eye with deadly accuracy. Still, the bulk of the project, from which a best-of selection will be presented here, brims with charisma, suggesting a Macheath very different from both Brecht's original and the one Darin and Sinatra watered down. Thursday, November 5, and next Friday, November 6, 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 773-722-5463. JOHN CORBETT
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Brinkhoff/ Mšgenburg.