London's King Cross to Stage Weill's Happy End

News   London's King Cross to Stage Weill's Happy End

A production of the rarely-seen Brecht/Weill musical Happy End comes to Central Space Theatre at Central Station next month. The show previews from May 14, has a press night on May 17 and runs until June 8.

This production is directed by Daniel Ghossain featuring a translation by Michael Feingold.

West End star Alasdair Harvey (the Beast in Beauty and the Beast) heads the 15-strong cast in this Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill comedy-musical about the conversion of a gang of Chicago gangsters by a Salvation Army girl.

The score by Weill includes some of what are now his best-known songs, including the heroine Lilian's Surabaya Johnny and Matrosen-Tango (Sailors' Tango) as well as Bilbao Song. As most of the action takes place in a bar, it is fitting that this production is being staged in the Central Station — a working bar in King's Cross, with the action — updated to present day from 1920's Chicago — taking place promenade-style around the audience.

In 1929 after the success of The Threepenny Opera — considered by many critics as one of the best musicals of the 20th century — the ebullient producer Ernst Josef Aufricht asked Brecht and Weill to write another musical. They collaborated with Elisabeth Hauptmann (under the alias Dorothy Lane), and the result was Happy End. During the second act of the debut performance, Weill called wife Lotte Lenya to tell her that he had another hit on his hands. One act later, audiences walked out — scandalized by the play's anti-capitalist finale. The play was shut down in less than a week and was never revived in Brecht or Weills' lifetime.

This version, by Michael Feingold, premiered in America in 1972 and was later produced on Broadway in 1977 with future Hollywood stars Meryl Streep and Christopher Lloyd in the company.

Alasdair Harvey (Bill Cracker) was last seen in the West End when he originated the role of The Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the Dominion Theatre. His other major musical roles include Alex in the U.S. production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love, Cliff in Sunset Boulevard, Marius in Les Misérables and Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera.

—By Paul Webb Theatrenow