In the original novel by Poe, Toby Dammit is an unsuited maladjusted young man, challenging the Devil, offering him his head in many extreme situations. In the final scene, Toby Dammit enters a long covered bridge interrupted by a turnstile and declares that he will jump over it in a flamboyant style and that he bets his head if he doesn’t succeed. Suddenly an old man, wearing a black suit and a black silk apron, says that Toby Dammit should start running. The narrator, a friend accompanying Toby, goes over the bridge and sees that he has lost his head, cut by the turnstile and taken by the Devil.
In “Toby Dammit”, shot in 1968, Fellini transforms the final leaping over the turnstile, in a phantasmagorical jump over an interrupted Italian road with a yellow Ferrari. Toby Dammit loses his head, cut by a metallic turnstile closing the road, while his yellow Ferrari continues its crazy ride. Here the devil is the imagine of a graceful little girl, playing with a white ball.
The character of Toby Dammit, interpreted by the Baritone, always bets in different ways. He is a resonating person, wearing a percussive costume, made by different materials that he can beat, scratch, expressing his rage, his hysteria and his intolerance for the others.The Bass interpreting the Devil, is waiting, playing the blade of the virtual turnstile while preparing the killing mechanism. The Tenor interpreting the friend of Toby, like the Pinocchio’s Speaking cricket, tries to protect and warn Toby from his eccentricity and his cockiness. The Mezzo interpreting the negative mother, is a cartoon-like representation of an excessive severe mother. Her singing is surreal and dramatic at times, summoning the rhythms and the obsessive repetitions of the expressionist cabaret.
The singers, as vocal quartett, are continuously taken by a kaleidoscope of cabaret’ s scenes, with quotations and elaboration from Nino Rota’s music and from the repertory of the german Kabarett of the Thirties.