Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bobby Darin, Bea Arthur, Berkeley, and a Beggar's Opera

My grandparents were Bobby Darin fans. Many times while in their house, his records (literally records... the big, black, flat discs) would be playing in the background while we did chores. I always liked the song "Mack the Knife." It was catchy and I was fascinated by sharks at the time (it happened to be the second word in the song and that's really all it takes to like something when you are four).

It wasn't until I was older that I realized how amazingly violent the song was. For all the people who grew up in the 50's that claim the music of today glorifies violence, please refer to the lyrics of "Mack the Knife." Your summer jam of 1959 was a murder ballad, or at least a ballad about a murderer.

Anyhow, years later while watching a doomed sitcom (doomed since it featured more "sit" than "com"), I noticed a Threepenny Opera poster in the back of the set. Knowing nothing about it, I found a copy of the 1954 cast recording. Not only did I learn that Mack the Knife originated from this (rather twisted) play, I also found it starred Beatrice Arthur... Bea Arthur from the Golden Girls! Sadly, I was equally excited to learn that Angela Lansbury was in Sweeney Todd. What can I say? I watched a lot of "old people shows" when I was growing up.

There is a version of the play being staged in Berkeley currently that I'm tempted to go see. This would require me breaking an oath I made to shun small plays after seeing a community theater version of Romeo and Juliet some years ago. You see, I wasn't informed that it was Romeo and Juliet... in Space (oh, how I wish I were kidding). It scarred me for life. But I'm pretty sure Mcheath is still wielding a knife and not a laser ray, and Jenny is still singing about being a pirate and not a space pirate, so it should be safe.
posted by jw