Speak Low: Neuwirth, Rees and Reinking Create New Weill Show, Here Lies Jenny, in the Shadows of Off-Bway

News   Speak Low: Neuwirth, Rees and Reinking Create New Weill Show, Here Lies Jenny, in the Shadows of Off-Bway
Based on the description of the world of the new late-night musical, Here Lies Jenny, starring Bebe Neuwirth, you can almost smell the cigarettes, taste the stale hooch and hear the dissonant notes of Kurt Weill.
Bebe Neuwirth in Here Lies Jenny
Bebe Neuwirth in Here Lies Jenny Photo by Cathrine Wessel

Beginning performances at Off-Broadway's Zipper Theatre May 7 for a limited run, the new theatrical musical event aims to exploit the sort of grit, longing and passions associated with the old songs of composer Weill, who penned German cabaret songs and theatre music for Broadway.

According to the announcement, "In Here Lies Jenny, a one-time saloon singer at the end of the line arrives at a bar that, like her, has seen better days. Clutching what's left of her life in a small canvas bag, Jenny is drawn inside the joint, at once foreign and painfully familiar. She finds herself singing along to the music playing – the soundtrack, strangely enough, of her life. Searching for something, someone, she seduces and rejects the bar denizens in her way. Through the music, Jenny relives the highs and lows of her checkered existence and finally finds a strength she didn’t know she had – the strength to face another day."

Several Jennys are featured in Weill musicals, including The Threepenny Opera and Lady in the Dark, though the new effort seems to want to expose a timeless persona, a mythic Everywoman.

The new, original, constructed piece plays 36 performances and features choreography by Neuwirth's Chicago collaborator, Ann Reinking, and is conceived and directed by Roger Rees, Neuwirth's fellow actor from her days on "Cheers."

Leslie Stifelman handles music direction and music supervision for this new entertainment, which uses songs from Weill's German cabaret and theatre days, as well as tunes from when he was a Broadway composer (when he preferred his name to be pronounced "while" not "vile"). Rees (Nicholas Nickleby), Reinking (Chicago, Fosse) and Neuwirth (Sweet Charity, Damn Yankees, Chicago) are all Tony Award winners, now experimenting with this new work in relative obscurity below 42nd Street — and late at night.

Just as some of Weill's famous German songs explored low dives, whiskey bars and untested places, the collaborators find refuge — at 11 PM Thursdays-Saturdays — in the funky Off-Broadway performance space called The Zipper, at 336 W. 37th Street, onetime home to BETTY Rules.

Opening is set for May 27. Here Lies Jenny is presented by Maria DiDia, Kathryn Frawley, Hugh Hayes and Martin Platt and will play through July 24.

The cast also includes Greg Butler, Shawn Emamjomeh and Ed Dixon.

Here Lies Jenny features the music of Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, Roger Fernay, Ira Gershwin, Langston Hughes, Alan Jay Lerner, Maurice Margre, Ogden Nash, Franz Werfel and Kurt Weill.

Designers are Neil Patel (scenic), Kaye Voyce (costume), Frances Aronson (lighting) and Tony Meola (sound).

Tickets range $35-$60. For tickets, calling Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200 or visit the Zipper Theatre box office.

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