If you’ve ever felt a bit sorry for those people in an orchestra who are forced to sit still and play their instruments, you’ll be happy to know they’ve been set free in this remarkable production of Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. This is a film of a live stage production at the Royal National Theatre in London, presented by the Cedar-Lee Theatre.
As envisioned by director Michael Longhurst, the 20 orchestra members from the Southbank Sinfonia are pretty much constantly in motion, responding to lines spoken by the actors, serving as crowds of people, and otherwise walking and playing. They must have had a ball.
But it’s not just a gimmick, as this moveable feast of musicians amplifies the energy and accessibility of Mozart’s music as Shaffer’s tale develops. Although the title employs the famous composer’s middle name, this play is really a deep plunge into the psyche of Antonio Salieri, the self-confessed mediocre composer who is a favorite of the court of Emperor Joseph II.
But once the young, brash and profane Mozart appears, Salieri’s life is changed forever, and not in a good way. While envying Mozart’s gift with music, Salieri plots to destroy the composer who has the talent that the older man can only dream of having. This drama is all super-fictionalized by Shaffer, but it provides a wonderful platform to explore the roots of genius and the tragedy of a dream denied.
This film of a live stage show isn’t everything you get from an actual experience in the theater, but the production is quite breathtaking nonetheless. The scenes change with smooth precision, deftly altering the visual landscape as the actors and musicians move amongst each other without missing a beat. And the cameras treat you to closeups.
As Salieri, Lucian Msamati is powerful as a wounded and tormented man, imploring God to explain why he is forced to watch Mozart create one masterpiece after another. Even though Salieri is the one who is showered with monetary and material riches, his jealousy burns with fervor.
Adam Gillen makes Mozart a thoroughly repellent fellow, which is as it should be. He is actually more irritating than Tom Hulce was in the movie version, and that helps clarify the conflict between the two music makers. They are surrounded by exceptional actors and, as mentioned, the orchestra members who are physically merged into virtually every moment of the production.
This production of Amadeus is part of the ongoing series at the Cedar-Lee Theatre, called National Theatre Live, presenting films of live stage performances from the Royal National Theatre in London. There is only one more showing of this play, this coming Sunday at 11 AM, so make a note.
Sunday, February 26, 11 AM at the Cedar-Lee Theatre, 2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Hts. Tickets are $20, 440-528-0355.