Musical Numbers: “What a Child!,” “The Red Coat,” “Why Can’t You Love Me As I Am?,” “Where Is Mozart?,” “No One Loves You the Way I Do,” “Ah, That Miss Mozart!,” “Wrap Your Heart in Iron,” “An Honest Family,” “The Journey to Paris (Montage 1),” “What a Cruel Life,” “Ho-La-Re, Du-Hi-Je,” “A Bit for the Head and a Bit for the Heart,” “Organ Sequence,” “Gold From the Stars,” “He Has Been Put in My Hands,” “Hold Your Breath!,” “Pig’s Tail From the Mud,” “Because You Are the Way You Are,” “The Prince Is Gone,” “I Am Staying in Vienna!,” “How Do You Escape Your Shadow?,” “Here in Vienna!,” “That’s How I Picture an Angel,” “To Know You Means to Love You,” “A Love Nest!,” “Who Is Who,” “Puzzle Song,” “Now We Are Playing,” “The Prince Is Gone,” “Somewhere There Is Always Dancing,” “How Can It Be Possible?,” “Letter From Vienna,” “The Present (Montage 2),” “Mozart’s Confusion,” “The Begging Letter,” “Papa Is Dead,” “A Man Becomes a Man by Holding His Head High,” “Friend Schikaneder,” “Mozart, Mozart!,” “I Taste Death, ” “The Prince Is Gone.”
For anyone expecting a traditional rendering of the composer’s life, complete with his greatest hits, let the exclamation point serve as a warning. Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay’s “Mozart!” styles the composer as a pop star for the ’90s, replete with blonde dreadlocks and an off-the-rack Gap wardrobe. The role is performed with gusto by charismatic Norwegian singer Yngve Gasoy-Romdal, and there are real treasures in the fantastical wigs and costumes by Dutch designer Yan Tax, Hans Schavernoch’s set design and a uniformly solid cast. The fourth original musical to come out of the Vereinigte Buehnen Wien may not please purists and critics, but audience appeal should turn this into another crowd-grabber.
The challenge in mounting a Mozart musical is what to do with his own compositions. Composer Levay avoids them almost completely, with a few strains from “The Magic Flute” floating through a late scene, a tantalizing hint of what might have been. Instead, we get everything from warmed-over Lloyd Webber to honky-tonk, ’40s ballads to percussion-heavy ’90s rock — the latter at one point performed by a stomping chorus of clergy in gray frock coats.
Answering the question of how Mozart produced his copious output, librettist and book writer Kunze separates the musical genius from the man by having a pint-sized version of the wunderkind (eerily performed by Alma Hasun) tagging along after the adult Mozart, scribbling furiously and symbolizing the brilliant child within the man.
Aside from that poetic liberty, Kunze draws from the composer’s biography, emphasizing a series of relationships that affected his career. First seen as a performing 9-year-old, Mozart is following the path of his older sister, the lovely and sympathetic Nannerl (Caroline Vasicek), under the guidance of his demanding father Leopold (Thomas Borchert, looking too young for the part in later scenes).
As a young man, the fair Mozart meets his nemesis in the form of the dark Salzburg Archbishop Colloredo (Uwe Kroeger). Freeing himself from the tyranny of Leopold and Colloredo, Mozart hooks up with the Weber family, portrayed here as a traveling snake-oil show in a psychedelic bus. He eventually marries Weber daughter Constanze (Ruth Brauer).
Though trapped by financial, family and professional demands, Mozart becomes an 18th-century pop star (in the cleverly staged title tune, set in the commercial heart of Salzburg with sunglasses, flash cameras and Mozartkugel balloons) before succumbing to the demands of his own genius.
Opera director Harry Kupfer keeps the evening lively with the help of the designers and an energetic young cast. Standout sequences include a set that rises in the air like so many notes on a harpsichord, a delicious scene of imperial Viennese court one-upmanship, and postcards trotting past to mark a trip to Vienna.
Two decades of training and experience in musicals under the VBW banner show in the professionalism throughout.