Review: Pendragon Theatre's Amadeus is Divine

Pendragon Theatre presents Amadeus
(Saranac Lake) My thirteen-year-old daughter sits in the Pendragon Theatre audience with me madly reading the program to learn a bit about the play Amadeus, before the lights start to dim. I bring her with me as a lover of history and music. She grasps that the main story is a fictional account of the rivalry between two classical musicians, Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. It's later on that she learns rumor and innuendo are just as fatal as murder. 

Salieri (John Nicholson) with Katerina (Emily S. Wanamaker)
I’ve watched the 1984 Oscar winning movie based on the Peter Shaffer play, but I’ve never seen the stage production. The differences are vast, as the play's action draws us in and allows the audience to be involved in the process. A poignant story of artistic brilliance, jealousy and destruction is brought to life through the powerful performances of the entire cast under the direction of Kimberley A. Bouchard. Amadeus is an emotional rollercoaster that ended with us both in tears. 

John Nicholson, last seen as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, plays Salieri with the perfect mix of self-righteousness, resentment and vengeance. The story opens with an elderly wheelchair-bound Salieri, still holding onto his bitter rivalry with a deceased Mozart.

The Ventis (Rachel Kemp and Emily S. Wanamaker)
with Salieri's servant (Will Gray) 
Bonnie B. Brewer’s lighting triggers shifts in moods from forbidding darkness to mischievous lightness while Tijana Bjelajac’s simplistic set design transforms us to 1800s Vienna with ease. It is Cathy Mason’s brilliant costume design that truly allows us to enter the court of Austria’s Emperor Joseph through rich brocade fabrics and elaborate Baroque-style wigs.  (Some wigs are works of art themselves, intricately fabricated from paper.)
Mozart (Tyler Nye) asks for a royal appointment from
the Emperor (Ryan Tracy)
Nicholson’s Salieri fills the stage with an exaggerated sense of importance as he steps back in time to rage about the infantile genius known as Mozart. Nicholson brings so much emotion to Salieri whether it is hate or disbelief.  Salieri is all pomp and circumstance, weaving tales of his own discovery and path to the royal Viennese court. When he is finally at the pinnacle of his career, married only to advance his career and widely respected, his self-worth is challenged by the musical prodigy Amadeus (Tyler Nye).

Nye takes the stage by storm as Amadeus Mozart. Nye’s Mozart is callous and juvenile, glibly tossing out improvements to Salieri’s work. With each high-pitched giggle or exuberant outburst, Nye paints Mozart as a destructive, impulsive youth who wears his emotions ________

Salieri reflects on his chaste, “good life” and sees Mozart as a “creature” that needs to be destroyed even though Mozart produces music that is straight from the Divine.

The Ventis with Constanze (Liv Paulson)
“Goodness is nothing in the furnace of art,” rages Salieri. He uses that realization to systematically damage his rival all the while playing Mozart for a fool. Intertwined with all the drama are the Ventis, played superbly by Rachel Kemp and Emily S. Wanamaker. From the opening act, the two women weave tension and intrigue through their gossip. They mock and mimic Salieri’s insecure thoughts, taunt Mozart’s decision to marry Constanze (Liv Paulson), a marriage disapproved of by his controlling father or stir mischief with their tales.

Amadeus playing at Pendragon Theatre Saranac Lake
Liv Paulson is truly riveting as Constanze. We watch her grow from giggling young girl to betrayed wife and destitute mother. Her pain becomes everyone’s agony as we watch the story unfold, with no control over the final outcome. 

The rigid rules and gossip-mongering of the Austrian Royal Court are perfectly portrayed by Count Orsini-Rosenberg (Jonathan Whitney), Count Gottfried Van Swieten (Jordan Hornstein), County von Strack (Josie Good), Emperor Joseph (Ryan Tracy) and Salieri’s servant (Will Gray).

Constanze (Liv Paulson) confronts Salieri (John Nicholson)
Salieri continues to undermine Mozart with destructive advice, but finally discovers that even in death Mozart’s musical genius lives on. Mozart is immortal while Salieri fades into obscurity.

When the final bow is taken, my daughter wipes the tears from her face and ask why? Why would someone destroy another person? Why would someone pretend to be friends? Why didn’t Salieri appreciate his own success? Why? 

Amadeus runs about 3-hours, but every emotionally-charged minute is worth its weight in gold. The last Pendragon Theatre performances are July 22,23,26,27,28,30 at 8 pm and July 24 at 2 pm.

Amadeus (Tyler Nye)
Written by Peter Shafffer
Director: Kimberley A. Bouchard
Costume Design: Cathy Mason
Light Design: Bonnie B. Brewer
Set Design: Tijana Bjelajac
Sound Design: Kim Bouchard
Stage Manager: Kellie McMenemon
Assistant Stage Manager: Sarah Benamati
Dramaturg and ASM: Emily S. Wanamaker

Count von Strack: Josie Good
Servant:Will Gray
Count Gottfried Van Swieten: Jordan Hornstein
Venti 1/Teresa: Rachel Kemp
Salieri: John Nicholson
Mozart: Tyler Nye
Constanze: Liv Paulson
Emperor Joseph: Ryan Tracy
Venti 2/Katerina: Emily S. Wanamaker
Count Orsini-Rosenberg: Jonathan Whitney

 © Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time™ guidebook series. Adirondack Family Time™guidebooks have easy, short Adirondack family hikes for ADK kids, parents, retired, seniors, dog-owners, Adirondack swimming holes, Lake Placid Olympic activities, Adirondack trivia, Adirondack horseback rides, Adirondack snowshoe family trails and more. Look for the Adirondack family guidebooks online or bookstores/museums/sporting good stores. Diane is currently working on the next Adirondack Family Activities™ guide.


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