Das Barbecü

Trying to take Wagner's four opera, sixteen-hour Ring Cycle and condense it into a two and one-half hour country and western musical set in Texas is much like trying to turn Shakespeare's War of the Roses history sequence into burlesque—the result may be entertaining, but it will bear little resemblance to the original in artistry or import.

So, to consider the Arvada Center's current production of Das Barbecü, which bills itself as such an adaptation of Wagner, one must be generous with the breadth of artistic license granted to the production.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to understand what the producers saw in this script. Anticipating that most audiences would have no familiarity with the story, the program includes a map of the Byzantine genealogy of Wagner's original myth. In addition, the characters themselves spend a major portion of their dialogue and lyrics recounting the relationships and history that drive the plot.

Photo of (L to R): Amanda Ryan Paige, Melissa Swift-Sawyer, and Laura Ryan
(L to R): Amanda Ryan Paige,
Melissa Swift-Sawyer, and Laura Ryan
Photo credit: P. Switzer
Much of this attempt at elucidation is lost, however, as the vocals are consistently drowned out by the orchestra. Neither I nor my companion, nor the older folks we overhead at intermission, could make head or tails of many of the well-presented, swinging, country songs.

Photo of (L to R): Dan Sharkey (Hagen) and Kevin Kraft (Siegfried)
(L to R): Dan Sharkey (Hagen)
and Kevin Kraft (Siegfried)
Photo credit: P. Switzer
Looking past all the "telling, not showing," there's a lot of talent on stage—including Broadway, off-Broadway, and regional theatre credits—the C&W singing is top-notch, and the choreography polished. Dan Starkey is imposing and suitably chauvinistic as Wotan, chief of the gods; Melissa Swift-Sawyer is captivating as the long-suffering Fricka, goddess of marriage and fidelity; Kevin Kraft is a cut-up as Siegfried and Alberich; Laura Ryan is engaging as Gutrune; and Amanda Ryan Paige shines as Brünhilde. Unfortunately, all this good work can't save a book that spends far too much time explaining itself, and not very well at that.

Photo of Amanda Ryan Paige (Brünnhilde) and Kevin Kraft (Siegfried)
Amanda Ryan Paige (Brünhilde)
and Kevin Kraft (Siegfried)
Photo credit: P. Switzer
Lastly, perhaps there was a time when it was good-natured fun to stick it to ego-maniacal, crass Texans, but after George Bush's buddies at Enron bilked thousands of investors and destroyed the fiscal solvency of California (and then won the governorship for this!), and after all of Bush's lies about 9-11, Afghanistan, Iraq, WMD's, his own military service and insider trading at Harken Oil, and his connection to and favors for the bin Ladens, not to mention his great-grandfather's and grandfather's investments with the Nazis, it's hard to find any sympathy for a culture that breeds such contempt for human dignity. Even the arrogant Wagner doesn't deserve the Nazis who adopted him or, in this case, the Texans who mock his mythology.

The Arvada Center's production of Das Barbecü runs through July 25th. 720-898-7200.

Bob Bows


Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster