This spring, the Ensemble Theatre Company will host Tom Waits’ carnivalesque musical adaptation of the classic German play Woyzeck. In 2000, the acclaimed musician and his wife and collaborator Kathleen Brennan revived the play, which had been left unfinished in 1837 by the untimely death of its original author, Georg Büchner. Waits and Brennan adapted the work for a contemporary audience and wrote an album of music called Blood Money to go along with the newly reinvented musical, and Woyzeck debuted as an avant-garde production in Denmark. Now, 15 years later, this story of a German soldier driven mad by army medical experiments and his wife’s infidelity comes to Santa Barbara’s New Vic Theater (33 W. Victoria St.) for an 18-day run.
Jonathan Fox, executive artistic director of ETC for the last nine years, will direct this wild, ambitious and long-awaited musical. “It’s one of the most unusual productions we’ve undertaken,” says Fox. “Although the play is one of the most influential in modern drama, Woyzeck is seldom produced at professional theaters, owing, I suspect, in part to its cryptic nature. I’ve always found the play to be gripping and unforgettable. And this musical adaptation by Tom Waits, one of my favorite songwriters, mixes jarring dissonance with beautiful melodies, emphasizing the love story at the center of the play. The live music underscores virtually the entire play, making for a unique theatrical experience.”
The musical stars experienced actor Stephen Van Dorn as the titular character, alongside acclaimed Red star Matt Gottlieb and a host of others. A five-piece band led by musical director Sean Bart will lead the cast through Waits’ music and Büchner’s words, which have been adapted by Anne Christin Rommen and Wolfgang Weins.
For those intrigued by the enigmatic history of the original play, the musical adaptation or this production, the ETC will be hosting a series of pre-performance talks on April 22 and 29. In addition, the Santa Barbara Public Library (40 E. Anapamu St.) will host the ETC Book Club on April 21, where scripts will be available to the public.
The production opens at the New Vic Theater on Saturday, April 18 and runs from April 16 (previews) to May 3.
Performances run Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m., with a Saturday 4 p.m. matinee performance on April 25 and a Tuesday 7 p.m. show on April 21.
For tickets or more information, please contact the ETC box office at 805/965-5400 or in person at 33 West Victoria Street, or visit their website at www.etcsb.org.
—Ali Van Houten