National Theatre Sheds Light on a Lady in the Dark

News   National Theatre Sheds Light on a Lady in the Dark
 
The National Theatre's classic musicals program, aided by a grant of several million dollars from the Cameron Mackintosh Foundation, has thus far given us such familiar scores as Carousel, Sweeney Todd and Guys and Dolls; but the good news is that they have taken a real risk with a score from the early 1940's that has never been seen in London and only very fleetingly in the regions about a decade ago. Lady in the Dark was famously the show that made Danny Kaye a star and gave Gertrude Lawrence one of her greatest Broadway hits. With a score by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and a book by Moss Hart based on his own experience with the then relatively new science of psychiatry, this has always been one of those "lost scores" that has headed the wish lists of musical addicts in search of past triumphs.

The reason it never originally crossed the Atlantic was, of course, the coming of America's entry into WW II a few months after the Broadway opening; by the time war ended, Danny Kaye and Gertrude were both out in California trying to carve out movie careers, and the failure of a Ginger Rogers film version made impresarios uneasy about the long-term prospects for the show at home or abroad.

But now, at the National almost 60 years after the Lady first took Broadway by storm, we have the first major British production, one which stars Maria (Passion) Friedman as the glossy magazine editor trying desperately to make sense of her life and choose the right husband. Even at the National, the production will not be as glossy as on Broadway and has apart from Friedman a somewhat unknown cast; but the great thing is that at last the National is starting to explore scores that have somehow gone missing.

The National Theatre's classic musicals program, aided by a grant of several million dollars from the Cameron Mackintosh Foundation, has thus far given us such familiar scores as Carousel, Sweeney Todd and Guys and Dolls; but the good news is that they have taken a real risk with a score from the early 1940's that has never been seen in London and only very fleetingly in the regions about a decade ago. Lady in the Dark was famously the show that made Danny Kaye a star and gave Gertrude Lawrence one of her greatest Broadway hits. With a score by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and a book by Moss Hart based on his own experience with the then relatively new science of psychiatry, this has always been one of those "lost scores" that has headed the wish lists of musical addicts in search of past triumphs.

The reason it never originally crossed the Atlantic was, of course, the coming of America's entry into WW II a few months after the Broadway opening; by the time war ended, Danny Kaye and Gertrude were both out in California trying to carve out movie careers, and the failure of a Ginger Rogers film version made impresarios uneasy about the long-term prospects for the show at home or abroad.

But now, at the National almost 60 years after the Lady first took Broadway by storm, we have the first major British production, one which stars Maria (Passion) Friedman as the glossy magazine editor trying desperately to make sense of her life and choose the right husband. Even at the National, the production will not be as glossy as on Broadway and has apart from Friedman a somewhat unknown cast; but the great thing is that at last the National is starting to explore scores that have somehow gone missing. -- By Sheridan Morley

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