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Brecht and Weill's Happy End - it's Chicago in 1919

Happy End opened in Berlin 1929. With an unfinished script by Elizabeth Hauptman and the Brechtian political agenda to expose the evils of capitalism and how gangsters and Salvation Army soldiers could unite to overthrow the system, it failed. When gangs of thugs roamed Berlin beating up those they did not agree with, including communists, it could not have helped that at the premiere one of the actresses, Brecht's wife Helene Weigel, stopped the performance to read from a communist pamphlet.

So it sank, dwarfed by its 1928 predecessor, The Threepenny Opera. There have been revivals from time to time, one of the best being from San Francisco’s the American Conservatory Theater in 2006. That version is an English adaptation by Michael Feingold, and we have the music from that production for you this week on the LS.

The story includes colorful characters, a romance between the gangster Cracker and Lt. Lillian of the Salvation Army, a planned bank robbery, tension about who should be the leader of the gang, etc. The setting is Chicago, 1919, in the days before Christmas, but it's really about Berlin. While it begs comparison to Guys and Dolls, the two have no connection to each other.