Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Das Barbecu"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark

"Das Barbecu"

Book & Lyrics by Jim Luigs
Music by Scott Warrender
Directed by Rick Lombardo
Choreography by Ilyse Robbins

Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland
Costume Design by Eduardo Sicangco
Costume Coordinator Eileen Bouvier
Lighting Design by Franklin Meissner, Jr.
Production Stage Manager Jessica Rae Chartoff

Chip Phillips
Wotan, Gunther, Hagen, Texas Ranger, Giant
Kathy St. George
Narrator, Fricka, Erda, Needa Troutt, Back-up Singer, Katsy Snapp, Rivermaiden, Valkyrie
Tommy Day Carey
Siegfried, Norn, Milam Lamar, Alberich, Giant
Amy White
Brunnhilde, Norn, Texas Ranger, Rivermaiden
Bridget Brady
Gutrune, Norn, Texas Ranger, Freia, Y-Yvonne Duval, Rivermaiden, Valkyrie, Tambourine Girl

The Band
Conductor/Keyboard.............Steven Bergman
Bass............Robb Simring or John Styklunous
Drums......................................Mic Lewander
Fiddle, guitars.............................Jerry Weene
Guitars, pedal steel......................Carl Phillips

"I see by your outfit," the cowboy ballad goes, "that you are from Texas."
It's the many outfits worn by a cast of four playing thirty named roles (they estimate 110 quick costume-changes in two hours) that make "Das Barbecu" a dizzying visual romp. And somewhere behind the New Rep's small stage Music Director Steven Bergman and four more band members manage to keep Scott Warrender's twangy Texan foot-stompin' rhythms pumping as the dressers fly by. Rick Lombardo's cast opens the show singing "There's a ring of gold in Texaaaaas" because Jim Luigs' book boils twenty hours of Wagerian epic into two hours that owe as much to "Das Dallas" and "Das Grand Ol' Opry" as to "Das Nibelungenlied". And the performances are astounding.

Of course, the trouble with such a dazzling tour de force like this is that it's impossible to tell who the hell was who When! What's left in the mind are isolated images: the synchronized-swimming of the Maidens, heads and arms rising from their (Achoooo!) un-heated pool; Erda's ambiguous gown, India-gesturing fingers, and crystal ball; a pair of doddering old retainers who were sprightly and young a moment before; the incredible horse-face of Hagen in his spells of narcolepsy; Alberich's toes peeking from the drum of "Texas Crude" where he's imprisoned; the occasional sex-blind turns of male or female in trio-scenes --- and that only scratches the surface of what they left of my mind.

The plot seems to start with Siegfried drugged and betrothed to another, while his beloved Brunnhilde is also mis-betrothed. It's lighting the barbecue at their joint --- though incorrect --- wedding that brings on the climactic Texan Gotterdamerung. That's how they can get through all that mythology in so short a time. If you know anything about the original operas [I know only what Anna Russell tells me!] single lines or words will probably set you into howls of laughter. If not, there's lots of "else" that will do the same.

Oddly enough, there are two serious, traditional ballads here ("County Fair" and "Slide A Little Closer") that could make it as romantic singles. Otherwise, the songs are less Country than Western, and Ilyse Robbins' choreography is more often clod-hopping than ballet --- which fits the mood perfectly.

The gusto with which ringmaster Rick Lombardo whips his cast from titter to guffaw to bellylaugh leaves parody giggling in the dust. As I am proving, this show is simply indescribable, and I've never seen a cast of thousands (well, five actually) have so much fun.


"Das Barbecu" (till 4 June)
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS
1(617) 332-1646

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide