The show is a blend of opera/musical, developed from a play that premiered in 1929 - and the opera/musical premiered in 1947, winning for composer Kurt Weill the first Tony Award for “Best Original Score.” He had prestigious and diverse collaborators. As director Melanie Helton says in her notes, “Street Scene remains an indelible piece of Americana, a remarkable collaboration between trio of remarkably prescient artists: Kurt Weill, a German-Jewish refugee from the Nazis, Langston Hughes, an African-American poet of the Harlem Renaissance, and Elmer Rice, and expatriate New Yorker returned home.”
This is a large undertaking, double-cast in most roles, as usual with MSU Opera, to give more singing students a chance to shine in this 60+ member cast. Their heads pop in and out of many workable windows on the realistic brownstone set (Elinore Loomis). There are super-titles to help us out, even though they speak and sing in English. (These are extra useful during Abraham Kaplan's (John Henrickson) amusing song about “kepitalism” with ethnic spellings.)
There are fun “slice of life” moments, but the show, on the whole, was not my favorite type; it addressed domestic abuse, sexual harassment intolerance of diversity, gossip and innuendo — certainly current/persistent topics — but to my non-opera-tuned sensibilities, it still felt dated and sappy and sort of righteously depressing.
STREET SCENE continues at Fairchild Theatre at MSU (NOT Thursday) but Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3.