Layna Chianakis, pictured in another role, will star in the CSUEB production. (Photo: Eleakis Photography)
“Seven Deadly Sins,” considered to be one of the masterpieces of the musical stage, is part symphony, part opera, part ballet. This rarely performed work comes to the University Theatre, on Cal State East Bay's Hayward Campus, 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 6-7, and 2 p.m. on May 8.
Most theater buffs are familiar with Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht as the creators of "The Threepenny Opera.” After fleeing Nazi Germany, Weill was commissioned to write a ballet for a small theatre company in Paris, and decided to make it a singing piece featuring his wife. He invited Brecht to write the lyrics and what they came up with was a morality play turned on its head.
Marc Jacobs, director and assistant professor of Theatre and Dance, said, “In ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ they created a comic-tragic comment on capitalism in a fantasyland America that neither man had been to at that time.”
The story concerns two sisters, Anna 1 and Anna 2, respectively a singer and a dancer. Their family – the mother is a bass in drag! – has sent the two sisters to wander the country for seven years to make enough money to build "a little house by the Mississippi in Louisianna."
In each city Anna 2, the soulful one, encounters a different "sin." But, Anna 1, the "practical" one, constantly convinces Anna 2 to ignore her scruples and sell herself for cash. True to Brecht's sense of irony, the sin is whatever gets in the way of the sisters making money.
Jacobs chose this classic to involve a large number of students from both music and theatre and dance departments. He also wanted to find a piece where he could work with colleagues Eric Kupers, assistant professor of theatre and dance who co-directs and does the choreography, and Buddy James, associate professor of music, who will conduct the CSUEB orchestra.
Jacobs said, “At a time when we are seeing the disappearance of a middle class in this country, union-busting, and a mentality of 'the rich take all' ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ is especially relevant. Also, it exposes our students to two of the creative giants of the 20th century, Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht, who both revolutionized theater and music.”
The director cast Layna Chianakis, head of San Jose State University’s Opera Workshop, in the lead role. She is supported by CSUEB music students Gabriel Cohen, David Zelenka, Yejing Zhang, and Owen McInnis, as well as 20 dancers.
Chianakis' career highlights have included the title role in "Carmen" with the Nashville Opera, Virginia Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Sacramento Opera, Opera San Jose, Treasure Coast Opera, and West Bay Opera; and Craig Bohmler's “Saints” with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra.
"Like all the great singers, she grabs your soul and takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride!” said Jacobs.
Partial funding for the show has come from the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York, NY.
Tickets to the theater are $15 for general admission; $10 for youth, seniors and alumni; and $5 for CSUEB students. Tickets may be reserved online or by calling (510) 885-3118.
CSUEB welcomes persons with disabilities and will provide reasonable accommodation upon request. Please notify event sponsor in advance at (510) 885-3118 if accommodation is needed.
Campus parking is $2 per hour at meters, or $5 per day, per vehicle from 5 p.m. Friday-midnight Sunday.