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  • Writer's pictureFrances

Opera North's Street Scene Review | The Lowry | Manchester

Ending Opera North’s three-show season at the Lowry, Street Scene turns up the heat with a powerfully cinematic take on Kurt Weill’s, 1946 opera. Capturing the vibrant world of an apartment complex, the production plays out the sordid tales and diverse voices of New York’s 1940’s melting pot, over two scalding summer days.

Mathew Ebertardt’s revival is an inviting production that shines a light on an amplified microcosm of New Yorkers. Audiences join the tenants on their stoop, as the design establishes the apartment within a cascading staircase that flows from both sides of the Lowry. With the innovative set sprouting characters from all corners of the stage, the scene resembles Escher’s Relativity, continuously framing the ensemble at its centre. The shared space brings a terrific sense of community, piling in a large cast and allowing the pacy action to unveil multiple soapy stories. Within the bright brownstone, we hear the whisperings of nosey neighbours speaking on tenants’ evictions, cheating spouses and ragamuffins running wild in the neighbourhood. Additionally, just like a captivating soap opera, we are happy to witness their turbulent lives play out before us.

Despite being laced with plenty of tragedy, Ebertardt’s direction ensures Street Scenes Tony Award-winning Best Original Score buzzes above the drama. Catchy songs, including We’ll Go Away Together and I Got a Marble and a Star paper over the issues of drunken, heartbroken and homeless tenants, let alone housewife Anna (Giselle Allen) making whoopie with the milkman. Over its two-tiered staging, Opera North embraces the multiplicity of its eighteen membered cast, switching musical styles to present a litany of arias and duets. Within their beautifully presented production, Gary Clarke serves up lengthy song-and-dance sequences including, Wouldn't You Like To Be On Broadway? that highlights the shows peculiar mix of Broadway tracks within its opera framework.

Conducted by James Holmes, the irresistibly jazzy score layers a Broadway-style over its working-class storyline of clashes and conflicts. Plenty of memorable moments are on offer, with impressive numbers like Moon Faced and Starry Eyed woven into the fabric of the plot. A jitterbug performance between Mae Jones (Michelle Andrews) and Rodney Vubya (Dick McGann) syncs the soap with entertaining choreography and keeps the sombre drama upbeat. Even the soon to be evicted Hildebrand family have their youngest daughter, Jennie (Laura Kelly-McInroy) perform the delightfully optimistic, Wrapped in a Ribbon and Tied in a Bow as a strange dichotomy to the real action unfolding on stage.

Opera North's Street Scene is one of the most relaxed, relatable and high-energy operas touring with the company. Filled with scandal and joy, it is an easy-going venture for newbies of the genre, bringing with them a terrific live orchestra, a passionate ensemble and a stunning set design.


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