No matter which rendition you came in on—Louis Armstrong or Bobby Darin's swinging versions, or later takes by Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave, Roger Daltrey or, gulp, Clay Aiken (on his 2010 CD Tried and True)—"Mack the Knife" is still one catchy song. (Even if it fueled that regrettable '80s ad campaign for McDonald's. "Mac tonight," anyone? Eeeeh.)
But who knew that the one song that would permanently anchor Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera in the zeitgeist was a desperate 11th-hour addition after a temperamental actor, one Harald Paulsen, threatened to walk on its Berlin premiere unless his character had a bigger build to his entrance in Act 1? (Let that be a lesson to us all: At least once a century, a diva's ultra-high maintenance actually helps a show.)
And in an era still reeling from mammoth malfeasance in the financial sector, how many remember that Brecht and Weill's musical originally asked the question, Who's the greater criminal: the bank robber or the banker? Ultimately, Macheath, that naughty, dapper career criminal, realizes that stickups are for punks: Service fees are a much more efficient (and genteel) way to separate people from their hard-earned bones.
Haskell Fitz-Simons directs a troupe including Mark Ridenour as the hopefully upwardly mobile thief, Kate Bowra as his sweetie, Polly Peachum, Izzy Burger as Pirate Jenny and Stuart Byham as Mr. Peachum. Friday's opening show is at 8 p.m.; performances continue Thursdays–Sundays through June 19. Tickets are $22, or $18 for students and seniors; on Sunday, June 5, all tickets are discounted $12. —Byron Woods