Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 12, 2017


Majestic Theater, West Springfield
through February 12, 2017
By Shera Cohen

Photo by Lee Chambers
Before entering the theatre, the audience hears the sounds of Mozart. Immediately, is the sight of expansive floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall staging which creates the lush 18th century Viennese court backdrop to “Amadeus.” Clocking in at 3-hours, this exquisite drama with comedy (as opposed to “dramedy”) uses every well-crafted word and purposeful movement to tell the story of composer Antonio Salieri and his nemesis Mozart. Whether the script is based on reality or not or even partially, is curious, yet not important.

Probably the only character who most theatregoers are familiar with is Mozart – his name, some of the titles of his plethora of compositions, and little else. Yet, Salieri is the star of the play who breaks the fourth wall in conversation with the audience at the start and end of the work, reliving the saga of his life intertwining with that of Mozart. It is not a pretty story, but one of jealousy, bravado, status, ego, and mistrust. Covering this combination of unpleasantness with ever-present, foreboding religious dogma, and “Amadeus” becomes the stuff of excellent craftsmanship by writer Peter Shaffer.

Keith Langsdale creates his Salieri as the evil-doer – smart, manipulative, and even slimy. It’s a very thin line for an actor to convince his audience to hate Salieri (perhaps Mozart’s murderer, thus depriving the world and centuries to come of such genius) and simultaneously feel incredibly sorry for this self-loathing man who realizes that he will never fulfill his dreams. I can’t think of a better actor in voice, mannerisms, and skill than Langsdale to accomplish such a task.

Stephen Petit plays the precocious man-child Mozart, at first with naivety, foolishness, and spunk. Gradually, Petit sinks his character into desperation in all aspects of his life. Like Langsdale, Petit has the perfect voice and body for his role. He is young and adorable like a puppy, with a contagiously cackling nervous laugh.

Who knew that J.T. Waite, an accomplished actor often seen on the Majestic’s stage, is also a director. He pays attention to every minute detail to bring the drama or the comedy (whichever called for at the time) to its fullest. Yes, I said the play is long, yet at no point is it sluggish. In fact, the opposite.

Each actor fulfills his role with panache, indicative of the century. A note about Jack Grigoli and Rich Vaden as Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum clowns. Their lickity-split repartee is a hoot to watch and hear.

It’s been a while since the Majestic has tackled a period piece, complete with costumes, make-up, and wigs of the era. Bravo to all of those backstage and onstage.