Maury Yeston, Taking Steps Toward a New Russian-Flavored Musical, Gives NYC a Sneak Peek

By Kenneth Jones
July 10, 2012

Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist Maury Yeston (Titanic, Nine) gave New York audiences a vodka-shot of his new Russian-inspired work-in-progress July 9 in the New Mondays concert at 54 Below in Manhattan.



At the evening featuring the work of rising and established songwriters, Yeston played piano, accompanying guest performers Rebecca Luker (singing "New Words"), Johnny Rodgers (singing "Danglin'"), Mara Davi and Jill Abromavitz. He opened his segment at the boîte by singing solo the entire "Germans at the Spa" — "all parts, all characters, all countermelodies, lotsa fun!," Yeston told Playbill.com — from his Tony Award-winning musical Nine.

He also offered a sneak peek of his new musical-theatre piece, Club Moscow; Davi and Abromavitz each sang a song from it.

What exactly is Club Moscow? It's young, that's for sure. Yeston explained in an email to Playbill.com, "It's a work in progress…early stages....currently writing it myself. It is told all in song. [It's] a vast expressionistic musical portrait of Russia in the Wild West of the 1990s after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. Centered in Moscow, it portrays instant oligarch billionaires, Mafiosi, corrupt politicians, artists, prostitutes, world-class ballerinas. It takes a ride on the roller-coaster rise and fall of a chaotic new world drunk on democracy and greed."

(You can almost hear the Russian-French accent of Elizaveta Grushinskaya, the love-hungry Russian ballet star played by Liliane Montevecchi in Yeston's 1989 musical Grand Hotel, written with Luther Davis, Robert Wright and George Forrest.)

Yeston, who won Best Score Tony Awards for Nine and Titanic, both of which were also named Best Musical, has long been attracted to far-flung locales for his musicals: His Grand Hotel is set in Berlin, his Phantom in Paris, his Death Takes a Holiday and Nine (which also has a Best Revival Tony to its credit) in Italy. His song-cycle "December Songs" has the scent of Europe, as well, though it's set in Central Park; it's inspired by Franz Schubert's song cycle Die Winterreise. In 2006, PS Classics released a new bilingual (French and English) recording of December Songs featuring Isabelle Georges. 

"The French version [of December Songs] does feel European," Yeston conceded, "and there is a beautiful German-language recording of it that seems even more so. But the original is in English, [the] vernacular of the lyrics is pure contemporary American…using cabaret and Broadway styles."

PS Classics also released "The Maury Yeston Songbook," the revival cast album of Nine and the Off-Broadway cast album of Death Takes a Holiday. Visit psclassics.com or the recordings section of PlaybillStore.com for more information. 

Club Moscow's private development continues.