June 20, 2012

Theater: Putting on the Hitler

Alley Theater’s new adaptation of ‘Schindler’s List’ a fun time for all!

Louisville has plenty of theater groups producing plays that few people ever go see, but even within the context of the local scene — from world-class Actors Theatre to the kid-friendly Stage One — the Alley Theater has long stood out for their unique approach to entertainment.

Productions like “Gilligan’s Island: The Musical,” “Evil Dead: The Musical,” “The Matrix Live! (A Parody),” and “Star Wars: The Original Trilogy in 60 Minutes or Less (A Parody)” have persisted, while recently, devoted fans have been heard screaming, “When is ‘Point Break Live!’ going to run yet again?!? I can’t get enough of that hilarious musical interpretation of the Swayze/Keanu surfing bank-robbers movie!”

Though “PBL”ers will have to wait a little longer for more of that gem, Alley Theater now presents a surefire winner for their latest movie-turned-musical production. “Schindler’s List: The Musical!” premiered earlier this month, after a three-week trial run in Boston. The show, with songs by ex-Metroschifter bandleader K. Scott Ritcher and poet Ron Whitehead, is outrageous and over the top — yet still provides many teachable moments, with songs like “This Nazi Party Ain’t a Fun Party No More” and “Aw, Heil No.”

The story — about a WWII-era German industrialist who spent his own fortune valiantly trying to save Jewish people who worked for him — isn’t the most obvious film-to-musical adaptation, but that’s precisely why Alley Theater felt it was the right choice. “No one ever thought ‘Point Break’ could be an endlessly entertaining musical, and we can’t get enough of it!” director Harry P. Ness said in a backstage interview. “We know fans of ‘The Producers’ and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ will also sing along to our new numbers, like ‘Where Would We Be Without This German?’”

It’s delightful, to be sure, though most of the credit must go to newcomer Jack Hoffman, a 22-year-old who embodies the complexity of Oskar Schindler in a way Liam Neeson never could. It takes true skill to make an audience feel as though they are there, living in the same reality as the characters onstage, and the audience truly does feel as though we’re all in Nazi Germany during this three-hour play. Eventually, though, we did have to come back to present-day Louisville, though not all wanted to. Hoffman is already booked for the lead in Alley Theater’s next production, a musical version of the 9/11 film “United 93,” to be titled “Let’s Roll!”

*This story is part of LEO's Fake Issue.