Some fine character acting, beautiful period costumes and a historically fascinating script are selling points of the Bellevue Little Theatre's production of “Amadeus,” which opened Friday.
Playwright Peter Shaffer's Tony- and Oscar-winning story of the rivalry between Antonio Salieri, court composer to Austrian Emperor Joseph II, and composing prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is undeniably gripping stuff. Yet the production feels unsteady in its emotional footing and long in the telling (2 hours, 50 minutes including intermission), yielding mixed results.
The decision to sabotage Mozart's career haunts Salieri in his declining years, to the point of teetering mental health. Salieri tells the tale from an asylum in 1823, leading to a series of flashbacks when Mozart visited the Austrian court from 1781 to 1791.
As Mozart, Andrew Miner's playful energy and cackling laughter bring the character vividly to life, often recalling Tom Hulce's Oscar-nominated performance in the 1984 movie. Miner gradually shifts the former child genius from careless or clueless to hints of inward reflection and maturation.
Pat Schwery, a gifted veteran actor, gives a brave and emotionally raw performance as Salieri, a righteous man who becomes embittered that God would bestow musical genius on the giggling, crude and childish Mozart rather than himself. The play becomes a thought-provoking reflection on the corrupting power of hatred and jealousy, and the crisis of faith it induces.
Schwery and director Lori Obradovich go early and often to the well of deep, anguished emoting. As a result, moments in which Salieri curses God and, late in the play, begs Mozart for forgiveness are less effective and climactic than they might have been if other moments had been more nuanced or restrained in contrast.
Among personal favorites in the supporting cast were Deb Kelly and Ryan Eberhart as “Venticelli,” gossiping socialites at court whom Salieri uses as spies and reliable rumor mongers. Their clever delivery gives the play some welcome humorous relief.
Danielle Smith shows considerable range as Mozart's flirty wife, Constanze, rides an emotional roller coaster, and Randy Wallace is effective as a baron who befriends Mozart, then abandons him over his behavior.
Pacing is uneven, at times slowed by the frequent movement of large, heavy tables and ornate chairs. Chairs sometimes came and went without ever being sat on.
Sound, including crucial passages of Mozart's music, cut in and out at times. And I might be a wet blanket, but the curtain call, done to the loud rock anthem “Rock Me Amadeus,” felt emotionally jarring and undermining to the mood set by the play's sober ending.
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What: Stage drama
Where: Bellevue Little Theatre, 203 W. Mission Ave. in Bellevue
When: Friday through Nov. 24.
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets: $15 adults, $13 senior citizens, $9 students
Information: 402-291-1554 or bellevuelittletheatre.com