The Beggar's Opera
By John Gay
Directed by Sandy Harper
July 12-30, 1999
For the company's second summer outing, we took a break from Shakespeare by tackling a piece from the 1765, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. The forerunner and non musical version of the Three Penny Opera, the show openes with a Beggar and another player acting as a chorus type character indicating the background of the story and what type of "Opera" the audience is about to see. In this version, the character of Macheath played the role of the chorus. The scene shifts to Mr. Peachum, the thief-catcher, looking through his accounting books. He and his wife, Mrs. Peachum, are horrified when Polly, their daughter, announces that she has secretly married the highwayman, Macheath. Peachum and Mrs. Peachum see no redemption in the marriage, until Mr. Peachum decides that if Macheath is killed, the Peachums could collect Polly's inheritance; the couple plots the pursuit of Macheath. This alarms Polly who warns Macheath at once of her parents' plan. Macheath retreats to a tavern where several solicitous women are lurking. The women befriend him as they talk of their lives of crime, but two of the women turn him over to Peachum.
Above, a skirmish in the saloon as Macheath is reapprehended.
Macheath is brought to prison, where the warden is another profiteering law official, Lockit. Lockit's daughter Lucy, madly in love with Macheath and who had previously made a proposal of marriage to her. Macheath swears his affection, but Polly arrives and reveals Macheath as her husband in front of Lucy. Macheath tries to cover Polly's claim by insisting that Polly is mad. Lucy is not completely satisfied, but she still devotes herself to his escape. Lockit finds out about the promised marriage to his daughter and realizes that he may be entitled to Macheath's money, upon Macheath's execution. Lockit meets Peachum to discuss this matter, which quickly escalates into a fight amongst these honest civil servants. Mrs. Peachum conveniently interrupts their meeting and announces Macheath's hiding place. Peachum and Lockit join forces together to capture Macheath. Meanwhile, Polly seeks Lucy in hopes of saving Macheath. Lucy has planned to poison Polly, but Polly avoids the tainted cup. The two find out that Macheath has been captured and plead with their fathers to save him. Macheath, at the gallows and ready to die, offers his last words to Polly and Lucy but later pleads that a moral ending would include the hanging of Macheath. However, since the audience came to see a happy ending, Macheath is released and whispers to Polly that she is his true wife.
Departing from its native time period and setting, new director Sandy Harper attempted a different approach setting this operatic story in the old west. Tavern scenes were change into saloons and the bawdy girls to their old west counterparts as these shots taken at Pier A Park in Hoboken show.
Below left, Macheath and his cohorts plan their latest heist, while below right, Mac has been caught in Peachum's scheme and rubbed in Polly's face.
Below 3 Saloon scenes
Riverview Park – Jersey City, NJ
Audoabhn Park, Jersey City, NJ
Columbia Park - Jersey City, NJ
Church Square Park – Hoboken, NJ
Elysian Park - Hoboken, NJ
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