Friday, June 8, 2007

LoveMusik - June 2, 2007

LoveMusik opens with Michael Cerveris as Kurt Weill in a pin spot hauntingly singing, in a thick German accent, about the fleeting nature of love. He is soon joined by Donna Murphy’s Lotte Lenya as the circle of light slowly expands revealing raw emotion, heartbreak and possibilities. They had me at “Speak Low”.

From here we are witness to the unfolding romance between two iconic figures of the theater. Alfred Uhry, who wrote the book, cleverly unravels the myths surrounding these two characters to present us with fully formed, fleshed out and powerfully human representations. Michael Ceveris and Donna Murphy create characters that are so interesting and engaging I found it impossible not to connect with them. I don’t want to reveal any secrets but there is a scene towards the end of the second act which involves Weill and Lenya and one small simple prop and the scene is devastating.

The production, directed by Hal Prince, and set design were minimal but with talent of this caliber there is no need for the distractions of overwhelming sets and scenery. From their first meeting in a row boat to their reunion in a Paris bedroom, Beowulf Boritt’s scenic design quietly suggests the setting allowing the focus to remain on the story. The performers in this show need little more than themselves to hold the attention of the audience. Donna Murphy is quite simply a revelation. Her Lotte Lenya is a self-assured, brash, spitfire balanced with a subtle vulnerability that is heartbreaking when it is revealed.

For every bit that Lenya’s character is big and colorful Michael Cerveris’s Weill is subtle and understated. His gentle delivery tinged with a shy determination to “take care of Lenya” is matched only by his love of creation. It is clear he is driven by two passions; love for Lenya and composing music. LoveMusik is appropriately titled.

Bertolt Brecht, as portrayed by David Pittu, is another theater figure who is brought down to human proportions. Way down in fact. After his introduction with Tango Ballad (from Threepenny Opera) we are taken on a rollercoaster ride of the ups and downs of his life. His relationship with both Weill and Lenya is documented in a less than flattering, but ever honest and unselfconscious, way.

LoveMusik includes a healthy sampling of the Weill music catalog. Some rather well known songs such as Surabaya Johnny (sung by Murphy in a second act show stopper as she is draped in an exquisite evening gown (costumes by Judith Dolan) to lesser known fare like I Don’t Love You. The songs are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the show in such a way that gives depth and power to Weill classics like It Never Was You that heretofore changed how I relate to them.

If I were asked, what would you expect the outcome to be if one of the most prolific and honored directors in theater history collaborated on a new musical with a Tony, Oscar and Pulitzer Prize winning writer, my answer would be nothing less than LoveMusik.

This review was a collobration between Gary and Marxsny.

Manhattan Theatre Club at The Biltmore Theatre
261 West 47th Street
New York, New York
Tickets: 212-239-6200/800-432-7250
Running Time: 2 hr 35 min with one intermission
Open Run

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