Walküre, Texas Ranger

Das Barbecü two-steps Wagner's operas into two acts at WaterTower Theatre

Taylor makes his face scary-funny as the shrieking dwarf Alberich and then turns leading-man cute as the cow-eyed Siegfried. He gets to slow down the breathless pace of quick-changes for a romantic two-step with his beloved Brünnhilde on the melodic "Slide a Little Closer."

Satire, said playwright George S. Kaufman, is what closes on Saturday night. As opera satires go, Das Barbecüisn't the first to try to ride roughshod on the Ring Cycle. One who did it well was monologist Anna Russell, now 97. In her brilliantly funny 20-minute summary of Wagner's great work (available on a CD called The Anna Russell Album?), she plays piano and sings part of Brünnhilde's big aria and then says acidly, "As you can hear, it was obviously not her day." When Erda comes up from the depths in Das Rheingold and sings "Weiche, Wotan, weiche," Russell explains that means, "'Be careful, Wotan, be careful'...She then bears him eight daughters."

What's going on onstage at WaterTower isn't nearly that funny. A better show probably happens backstage, where the five performers toss different wigs, hats, dresses and boots on and off every minute or two. In 1999 the 55-minute documentary Sing Faster: The Stagehands' Ring Cycle(available on DVD) went backstage to follow the union crew of the San Francisco Opera as they grappled with the snapping jaws of a two-ton hydraulic dragon, plus fog machines and temperamental singers. During slow scenes, crew members played poker, gossiped about Wagnerian gods (and the monsters playing them) and balanced their checkbooks. The entire four-opera cycle is condensed to a breathtaking 60-second time-lapse sequence.

Stacia Goad in Das Barbecü, a show that takes aim and misses.
Stacia Goad in Das Barbecü, a show that takes aim and misses.

If only Warrender and Luigs' jokes were half that clever. As a musical comedy, their work offers music far more polished than their groaner comedy bits. Das Barbecü serves too many ribs that aren't well done.

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