The acclaimed 1954 American staging of The Threepenny Opera, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's masterwork, gets a repackaged re-release on the Decca Broadway label Aug. 29. The remastered cast album of the show that was a smash at Theatre de Lys (the theatre that helped put Off-Broadway on the map) includes performers John Astin, Lotte Lenya (Weill's widow), Bea Arthur, Charlotte Rae, William Duell, Jo Sullivan, Scott Merrill, Martin Wolfson, Gerald Price and George Tyne.
Marc Blitzstein (The Cradle Will Rock) adapted the script and lyrics for the 1954 staging. It became the longest running Off-Broadway show until The Fantasticks. The musical is a social satire -- some call it a morality fable -- based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.
An added track has Lenya warbling "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" accompanied by Blitzstein on piano. The live performance is from an unidentified source; it was found in Lenya's personal archives.
In addition to a synopsis of the show, the booklet includes a brief education about the show (Die Dreigroschenoper in the original German, in 1928) in an essay by David Farneth, director of the Weill-Lenya Research Center.
The show has a brief run that was a sell-out thanks to Brooks Atkinson's attention. It closed to allow a scheduled staging to play there, and then reopened 15 month later, in 1955, and ran five years.
-- By Kenneth Jones