Broadway Unplugged: Sound Board Down, The Threepenny Opera Goes on Sans Amps

News   Broadway Unplugged: Sound Board Down, The Threepenny Opera Goes on Sans Amps
In a move that might have excited Bertolt Brecht, the Broadway revival of The Threepenny Opera performed the June 20 evening show without the help of microphones or an orchestra.

Christopher Innvar, Nellie McKay, and Alan Cumming
Christopher Innvar, Nellie McKay, and Alan Cumming Photo by Joan Marcus

Broadway audiences are now accustomed to being able to hear the subtlest sotto voce thanks to modern technology; the days of marquee names needing to belt out to the balconies have long since passed. But on June 20 that changed at the historic Studio 54 — where the Brecht and Kurt Weill work plays — when a computerized soundboard would not "take commands" according to a show spokesperson.

An announcement notified the audience of the technical problem, but noted the show would go on "without amplification" — which was greeted by an ovation from enthused audience members. The temporary solution was to have a piano placed at the lip of the stage where musical director Kevin Stites and Annbritt duChateau played to accompany. (The orchestra at a regular performance plays from above the stage from where box seating would usually be situated.)

To aid with other auditory accoutrement, stage management created sound effects. Following the inadvertently intimate performance, the audience greeted the cast and crew's efforts with a standing ovation.

Roundabout has since remedied the computer malfunction and the show performed as usual for the June 21 matinee.

* The Scott Elliott (Hurlyburly, The Women) staging of Wallace Shawn's world premiere translation began previews March 24 and opened April 20 at Studio 54. The limited run ends June 25.

A mohawked Alan Cumming (Cabaret, Design for Living) stars as the infamous Macheath opposite pop songstress Cyndi Lauper (as Jenny) and fellow recording artist Nellie McKay (Polly) with stage veterans Ana Gasteyer (Wicked, The Rocky Horror Show) and Tony Award winner Jim Dale (Barnum, Joe Egg) (as Mrs. and Mr. Peachum) in the work based on the original Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill classic musical Die Dreigroschenoper.

Set in London in the 1800s, the The Threepenny Opera concerns a notorious bandit who marries a girl, much to the chagrin of her father. The peeved patriarch does everything in his power to imprison his son-in-law in this political and social satire. Director Elliott stages the two-act scene-and-song show with a nod to Brecht's signature style. (Shawn can be heard in voiceover.)

Tickets to The Threepenny Opera at Broadway's Studio 54, located at 254 West 54th St., are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300 or online at

Today’s Most Popular News: