He believed music was the language of God. He vowed to live a life of sexual purity and be socially virtuous in order to be the conduit of God’s language. He was the most lauded composer of his day. This is the story of Antonio Salieri.
Make no mistake. Though the play is titled Amadeus, the story is really about Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s highly fictionalized account of the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri, currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre.
The play is told mostly in flashback by Salieri (played by Pat Schwery). A greatly aged Salieri confesses to murdering Mozart and now, in the last hour of his life, feels the urge to confess how he slowly destroyed Mozart (played by Andrew Miner) during their time at the Viennese court.
As Salieri, Schwery paints a portrait of a deeply conflicted man. He has dedicated his life to God in order to be able to make music, yet cannot reconcile why God would grant the gift of musical genius to a buffoonish fop such as Mozart. And since he cannot reconcile this, he declares war on God and makes Mozart, or the creature, as he calls him, the battleground. Schwery does an admirable job portraying the anguished composer who hates the man that Mozart is, yet loves the beautiful music that Mozart effortlessly composes. Through the use of voice and body language, Schwery easily transitions from old Salieri to young Salieri, though I thought his older Salieri was a bit too energetic and spritely for an elderly, bitter, broken man. Several dramatic moments with the character also seemed to reach for the same fevered pitch instead of finding more nuanced, subtle variations to communicate those moments.
Andrew Miner’s essaying of Mozart is thoroughly annoying and that is not a criticism. This story is how Salieri sees Mozart and that vision is one of a crude, vulgar, childish man whose genius for music staggers the imagination. Miner brings incredible energy to this character as he smoothly snaps off numerous lewd jokes and witty one liners punctuated with a high pitched cackle. It is to Miner’s credit that he makes the audience feel pity for this character’s plights at the hands of Salieri’s machinations, despite a personality that would make one want to punch him repeatedly.
Other standouts in the cast include Deb Kelly and Ryan Eberhart as the Venticellos, spies and gossipmongers for Salieri. Their light, snappy repartee nearly steals the show. Danielle Smith excels as Mozart’s wife, Constanze Weber. At first appearing to be a perfect match for Mozart with her whiny, spoiled immaturity, Smith brings some dramatic depth to the role with a nuanced confrontation with Salieri and a mourning of Mozart that tugs at the heartstrings.
Also notable were David Sindelar (as Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg) and Randy Wallace (as Baron Gottfried van Swieten). With their limited stage time, both managed to develop fully realized characters that provided some welcome dramatic and comedic moments in the show.
Director Lorie Obradovich is to be commended for the blitzing pace she cuts with this show. The story neither weakens nor drags for a moment and she has culled some strong performances from the featured cast.
That being said, this performance was somewhat marred by sound cues that were either too loud or too soft, some slight line bobbling, weak projection on the parts of some actors, and uneven acting by some of the supporting players.
Still, the production is a very worthwhile effort.
Amadeus plays for one more weekend at the Bellevue Little Theatre located at 203 W Mission, Bellevue, NE 68005. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and TAG members, and $9 for students with a valid student ID. Reservations can be made at 402-291-1554 between the hours of 10am-4:30pm Monday-Saturday.