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Brecht-Weill-Disney Mashup ‘Threepenny Mickey’ Headed for Broadway

2 works now in the public domain will be joined in a new ‘pop opera hybrid’ version.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.: Is the world ready for Mickey Messer, or Mick the Knife? Gutbucket Productions, an LLC based in New Mexico, has announced plans to stage Threepenny Mickey, described as a “pop opera hybrid” of Brecht and Weill’s classic Der Dreigroschenoper, better known as The Threepenny Opera, with the groundbreaking Disney short Steamboat Willie, the first film appearance of the animated character Mickey Mouse. A workshop production is planned for this June at Albuquerque’s Bank of America Theatre (clearly an ideal place to deliver the memorable line, “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?”), after which producers have their sights set on a Broadway run during the 2024-25 season.

“With both Threepenny Opera and Steamboat Willie entering the public domain in 2024, we are excited to bring these two iconic 20th-century works together onstage in a way that was never possible before,” said Max Tribble, who with his wife, Joy Tribble, runs Gutbucket Productions, an immersive event company that also produces a line of novelty party hats. “We think audiences will be surprised how well these two contrasting pieces of IP complement each other.”

Tribble, who with his wife Joy is creating the adaptation himself, said he is using a literal translation of Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann’s original dialogue and lyrics by German scholar Berengar Bauer, and is peppering the tuneful Weill score with musical interpolations, including “Turkey in the Straw,” the song heard in Steamboat Willie when a goat swallows a ukulele. Tribble said he is reimagining the play’s action, originally set on the streets of London, to take place on a small steamboat, with actors dressed as farmyard animals to point out the “commodification of our desires.”

“The story and songs will be mostly recognizable as Threepenny,” Tribble explained, “but the setting and look of the show will be modeled closely on Steamboat Willie.”

Audiences hoping to see a full panoply of Disney icons integrated into the Brecht-Weill classic—Tigger Brown, say, or Goofy Tawdry—may be disappointed, as Steamboat Willie has few named characters, hence just a small number that are now freely available for repurposing. These include Mickey, restyled here as Mick the Knife, a brutal but good-hearted thief and cutthroat; the oafish boat captain Pete, recast as the self-righteous bourgeois beggar Pete-chum; and Mickey’s famous mouse girlfriend, who will sing the chilling song of retribution “Pirate Minnie.”

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