Weill and Lenya Conjured in LoveMusik, Opening May 3

By Kenneth Jones
03 May 2007

Michael Cerveris in LoveMusik.
Michael Cerveris in LoveMusik.
Photo by Carol Rosegg

LoveMusik, the unusually-titled new musical that tells of the unconventional love between composer Kurt Weill and his muse, actress Lotte Lenya, opens May 3 at Broadway's Biltmore Theatre.

The first images revealed in the presentational, dreamlike musical conceived by director Harold Prince and book writer Alfred Uhry are floating faces of Weill (played by Tony winner Michael Cerveris) and Lenya (played by Tony winner Donna Murphy), inscrutably lighted behind a scrim that sets them in an emotional netherworld singing "Speak Low," one of Weill's most haunting tunes.

The original musical, produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, uses songs from Weill's career in Europe and the U.S. to tell the push-me/pull-you 25-year love story, through courtship, marriage, divorce and painful compromise. Bertolt Brecht, Weill's famed collaborator on Threepenny Opera and other projects, is a major character here (played by David Pittu), as is Harper's Bazaar editor George Davis (played by John Scherer).

The showbiz musical is inspired by the book, "Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya," which Prince sent to his Parade collaborator Uhry. Prince, who directed Lenya in the original production of Cabaret, serves on the board of The Weill Foundation, suggested the letters were a good jumping off point for a musical.

"It's the first assignment I ever got I fell in love with instantly," Uhry told Playbill magazine. "Hal said, 'We've both been married a while, and we know that everybody's marriage is different and that whatever it takes to make it work, you do it.' He also said, 'I am assuming your marriage, like my marriage, is not quite as bizarre as theirs. I'd like you to write about long-lasting love, and I'd like it to be a play with Weill songs. I don't want a revue.'"



Previews began April 12, after which Prince did some weeding a meandering overture was cut, as was a dance number, along with other judicious internal trims.

Also featured are Judith Blazer (Titanic), Edwin Cahill, Herndon Lackey (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Parade), Erik Liberman, Ann Morrison (Merrily We Roll Along), Graham Rowat (Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Dr. Zhivago), Rachel Ulanet (King David) and Jessica Wright (2006's Company, 2005's Sweeney Todd).

Musical staging is by Patricia Birch (A Little Night Music).

Uhry is the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning author of Driving Miss Daisy and The Last Night of Ballyhoo.

Prince is a 21-time Tony Award winner (The Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret and Sweeney Todd).

According to MTC, LoveMusik "follows the lives of the unlikeliest of lovers the brilliant, intellectual German composer Kurt Weill (Cerveris) and the woman who became his muse and star, Lotte Lenya (Murphy)," according to MTC. "LoveMusik is an epic romance, set in Berlin, Paris, Broadway and Hollywood, spanning 25 years in the lives of this complicated couple."

Act One is called "Europe," and Act Two is called "America."

LoveMusik features the lyrics of Maxwell Anderson, Bertolt Brecht, Howard Dietz, Roger Fernay, Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, Langston Hughes, Alan Jay Lerner, Maurice Magre, Ogden Nash, Elmer Rice and Kurt Weill. (Wags would call it a "jukebox musical" if it featured less high-minded music, but the show has avoided that label so far).

The production's living musical contributors are Jonathan Tunick (orchestrations), Kristen Blodgette (musical supervisor), Seymour Red Press (music coordinator), Milton Granger (additional vocal arrangements) and Nicholas Archer (conductor).

LoveMusik is produced by Manhattan Theatre Club (Lynne Meadow, artistic director, Barry Grove, executive producer) by special arrangement with Marty Bell, Aldo Scrofani, Boyett Ostar Productions, Tracy Aron, Roger Berlind/Debra Black, Chase Mishkin and Ted Snowdon. The commercial names attached indicate a hope for a future life beyond its not-for-profit MTC launch.

The LoveMusik design and production team includes Beowulf Boritt (scenic design), Judith Dolan (costume design), Howell Binkley (lighting design), Duncan Edwards (sound design), Paul Huntley (wig design), Angelina Avallone (makeup design), Mark Simon (casting).

LoveMusik tickets are currently on sale through June 17.

Tickets are available by calling Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200, (800) 432-7250 outside the NYC metro area, online at Telecharge.com, and at the Biltmore Theatre box office (261 West 47th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue). Tickets range in price from $76.25-$101.25.

Visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com for more information.

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The musical numbers in Love Musik, according to the opening night Playbill are:

ACT I EUROPE

"Speak Low" (lyric by Ogden Nash)
"Nanna's Lied" (lyric by Bertolt Brecht)
"Kiddush"
"Song of the Rhineland" (lyric by Ira Gershwin)
"Klops Lied (Meatball Song)"
"Berlin Im Licht" (lyric by Kurt Weill)
"Wooden Wedding" (lyric by Ogden Nash)
"Tango Ballad" (lyric by Bertolt Brecht)
"Alabama Song" (lyric by Bertolt Brecht)
"Girl of the Moment" (lyric by Ira Gershwin)
"Moritat" (lyric by Bertolt Brecht)
"Schickelgruber" (lyric by Howard Dietz)
"Come to Paris" (lyric by Ira Gershwin)
"I Don't Love You (lyric by Maurice Magre)
"Wouldn't You Like to Be on Broadway?" (lyric by Langston Hughes & Elmer Rice)
"Alabama Song" (reprise)

ACT II AMERICA

"How Can You Tell an American?" (lyric by Maxwell Anderson)
"Very, Very, Very" (lyric by Ogden Nash)
"It's Never Too Late to Mendelssohn" (lyric by Ira Gershwin)
"Surabaya Johnny" (lyrics by Bertolt Brecht)
"Youkali" (lyrics by Roger Fernay)
"Buddy on the Night Shift" (lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II)
"That's Him" (lyrics by Ogden Nash)
"Hosannah Rockefeller" (lyric by Bertolt Brecht)
"I Don't Love You" (reprise)
"The Illusion Wedding Show" (lyric by Alan Jay Lerner)
"It Never Was You" (lyric by Maxwell Anderson)
"A Bird of Passage" (lyric by Maxwell Anderson)
"September Song" (lyric by Maxwell Anderson)