It was Marx who warned us that history's first iteration is as tragedy, its second, farce. So it shouldn't be surprising that, after a phalanx of reporters, politicians, energy experts and federal prosecutors used a mountain of depositions, affidavits, financial records and (shudder) PowerPoint presentations to disclose one of the biggest corporate frauds in history, British playwright Lucy Prebble chose to tackle it. With a collection of high-energy song-and-dance numbers. With incisive insights, manifested with lacerating wit. With some locker-room humor and a little of the bump-and-grind. And a few well-placed dinosaur masks.
The unlikely result—a musical based on advanced corporate malfeasance?—took the West End by storm in 2009–10. But its subsequent Broadway run left the top critics deeply divided, with passionate supporters and detractors. As a result, Enron garnered four Tony nominations, including one for best original score, but it also closed after a one-month run, ushered into its grave by a controversial drubbing in The New York Times, despite considerable consensus that the show deserved better.
Given Burning Coal's ongoing interest, and skill, in staging works exploring recent world history (like The Shape of the Table), it makes sense that the company would take on this audacious work as a season opener at its Murphey School site. With Jerome Davis directing, choreography by Robin Harris and a muscular cast including John Allore, Nick Berg Barnes, Julie Oliver and Jenn Suchanec, it should be quite a ride. The show runs Thursdays–Sundays through Sept. 25. —Byron Woods