Lovemusik
Lovemusik
Book by Alfred Uhry | Music by Kurt Weill | Suggested by the letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya | Directed on Broadway by Harold Prince
LOVEMUSIK follows the lives of the unlikeliest of lovers - the brilliant, intellectual German composer Kurt Weill and a lusty girl from the streets of Vienna who became his muse and star, Lotte Lenya. With a book by Alfred Uhry (Pulitzer Prize winner, DRIVING MISS DAISY), LOVEMUSIK is an epic romance, set in Berlin, Paris, Broadway and Hollywood, spanning 25 years in the lives of this complicated couple. From their courtship and early collaborations in Europe, through their journey to America and the debut of the landmark musical THE THREEPENNY OPERA, LOVEMUSIK gets deep inside this fascinating partnership. The musical features some of Weill’s best-loved songs, including “Speak Low,” “Surabaya Johnny,” “It Never Was You,” “Mack the Knife,” “September Song,” and “Pirate Jenny.” Run time: Two hours and 45 minutes with one 15 minute intermission
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"A FASCINATING PORTRAIT that recalls 'Cabaret,' 'LoveMusik' bears the defining creative stamp of director Harold Prince, who has folded performance, design and music into A COLLAGE OF STRIKING THEATERCRAFT. It's an AUDACIOUS WORK that never shies away from taking risks, and a BEGULING reflection of the complexities of love." — David Rooney, Variety, January 01, 1970

"LEAVES IT'S RECENT AND CURRENT COMPETITION MILES, IF NOT LIGHT YEARS, BEHIND. With Alfred Uhry's INVENTIVE book, Kurt Weill's UNBEATABLE songs... THIS IS THE ONE NOT TO MISS!"

— John Simon, Bloomberg News, January 01, 1970
LoveMusik Ignites Controversy, The Kurt Weill Newsletter , April 01, 2007

As reported in the Los Angeles Times on 2 May 2007: “Following a preview of LoveMusik, Joel Grey approached the legendary director Harold Prince. ‘Hal, I love this show,’ said the actor who starred in Prince’s original Broadway production of Cabaret. ‘But what exactly is it?’” After its 3 May opening night, controversy raged among theater-goers regarding the intellectually challenging show. Apart from near-universal accolades for the stars, Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy, critical opinion ran the gamut from raves to rotten eggs.


LoveMusik, the new musical portrait of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, is moody, daring and downright bewildering… Some will view it as stretching the boundaries of musical art form, while others will deem it an exasperating experiment. Regardless of where you fit into the broad continuum (for the record, I’m on the plus side), it is endlessly fascinating.” (Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News)


“Two luminous, life-infused portraits glow from within a dim, heavy frame at the Biltmore Theater… In relating the story of the emotionally tortured but highly functional relationship of its main characters, LoveMuisk… strives to achieve chilly distance and cozy intimacy in the same breath. As a consequence the show seems to be fighting itself every step of the way.” (Ben Brantley, New York Times)


“Alred Uhry had an eye-popping idea for a musical, which, it says, was ‘suggested by the letters of Kurt Weil and Lotte Lenya.’ Maybe. The book is frankly clunky. But time and time again it is luckily resuscitated by the music and the altogether remarkable performances from the whole cast under Harold Prince’s inspired direction.” (Clive Barnes, New York Post)


“Employing techniques that Brecht made famous in his Epic Theater… Prince clearly knows what he’s doing. But one can’t help feeling that, for the most part, he’s dressing up a turkey… Donna Murphy desperately wants to be liked as a performer, and she can’t quite grasp a character who doesn’t project an atmosphere of health and good will… Michael Cerveris is equally miscast. He’s too powerful for the part of Weill, a retiring man who works and smoked his way to an early grave. (Hilton Als, The New Yorker)


“It took me a good half-hour to buy into the idea of a jukebox musical for eggheads whose stars deliver their lines (and sing their songs) in German agkzents reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove and Lili von Shtupp. Truth to tell, LoveMusik really shouldn’t work—yet it does.” (Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal)


“Althought Broadway appears to be sinking under the feather-weigh of movie adaptations and amiable musical comedies, another reality is that Spring Awakening, Grey Gardens, and now, LoveMusik, are insisting that musical theater take back its seat at the grown-up table.” (Linda Winer, Newsday)


Award Tally: as this Kurt Weill Newsletter goes to press, LoveMusik had been nominated for a whopping twelve Drama Desk Awards in the Musical category (Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Act, Actress, Featured Actor, Director, Choreography, Book, Orchestrations, Set Design, Costume Design, Lighting Design and Sound Design). Tony nominations include Donna Murphy {Best Actress, Musical) Michael Cerveris (Best Actor), David Pittu (Best Featured Actor), and Jonathon Tunick for Best Orchestrations. Murphy and Pittu have already won Outer Critics Circle Awards, announced on 13 May, in their categories.

Performances: LoveMusik, Kurt Weill Newsletter
Written By: John Simon , March 01, 2007


In Much Ado About Nothing, a young woman is advised by a wise older man, “Speak low if you speak love”—make your flirting talk whispered, intimate, sexy. Ogden Nash’s lyric to a Kurt Weill tune in One Touch of Venus harmlessly changed “if” into “when”. But an unknown person at the music publisher’s office inserted a comma before “love,” turning it into a vocative endearment. This “speaking low” no longer referred to love talk, but to a desideratum for femininity, as in Lear’s eulogy for the dead Cordelia, “Her voice was soft, gentle and low, and excellent thing in woman.”

 By eliminating the erroneous comma after “speak,” the musical LoveMusik, like the book of letters on which it is based, Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, puts the sotto voce back where it is most apt, into the words of love—on pillows, in letters, in love life.

 The new musical, conceived by Harold Prince, with book by Alfred Uhry and music by Kurt Weill (culled from his extensive catalogue), was engendered by that heft tome of correspondence, consummately translated and edited by Lys Symonette and Kim H. Kowalke. It fell into Prince’s hands, and that savvy man of the theater passed it on to Alfred Uhry. Thus came about, after a long gestation, the wonderful musical that, as stated in the program, was “suggested by the letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya.”

 It concerns a love affair that, in and out of matrimony, remained unconventional. There was a marriage, then a divorce of convenience, then a remarriage. It was an open marriage: Lenya’s infidelities were many and brief, Weill’s much fewer and one of them serious. Because of their far-flung work, the spouses were often, sometimes prolongedly, apart. This stimulated infidelities but also elicited fascinating letters. Unry’s libretto is only sparsely based on actual quotations from them; more heavily on the biographical information the editors supply. As Uhry said in an interview, his libretto catches “the temperature of the letters.”

 The temperature and the volume (in the sense of loudness or lack of it) in the letters. They bespeak a steady underlying love often rambunctiously expressed, but they do speak low. In Weill’s famous remark to Lenya, quoted in the show, she came first with him—right after the music. That, understandably, was not what she wanted to hear. In a sense, Kurt was not enough for Lenya, and she, threatening his concentration on composing, was too much for him. But, in a deeper sense, Weill and Lenya’s low-speaking but enduring love suited both of them.

 There are two sets of expectations not to be brought to LoveMusik. The first is the expectation for a typical Broadway musical: big production numbers, lots of dancing, elaborate costumes and scenery, and a book progressing steadily from scene to scene.

Instead, there is something more like the Brecht-Weill “epic theater”: short scenes connected not by pretty ribbons but by jumps—or if it were a movie, jump cuts. This brevity and episodicity precludes sentimental dawdling, and keeps the temperature from a boil. In other words, it speaks low.

 The second inappropriate expectation is to hear all your favorite Weill songs, or at least the most famous ones. The 27 numbers included are more than a drop in the ocean, 27 warm or cool waves from a great sea of songs, almost every  one a masterpiece. But even such a very popular song as “Pirate Jenny” is used only briefly as underscoring. If a song does not fit the story being told—Kurt and Lenya’s 26-year relationship, from the 1924 meeting to Weill’s death in 1950—it will not be included.
 Moreover—and this is one of the beauties of the musical—you may get the well-known song in a surprising situation or from an unexpected mouth. Take “That’s Him”, which in One Touch of Venus was sung by a goddess acknowledging her mortal love, but here is delivered piteously by Kurt trying to justify to himself one of Lenya’s flings. “September Song,” in Knickerbocker Holiday an old man’s please to his young love, because a duet after Kurt’s death for Lenya and her next husband and successful promoter, the homosexual George Davis. That was to become a marriage that spoke even lower. But it sang out loud, as David steered Lenya into a splendid singing and acting career long delayed and richly deserved.

The very opening number of LoveMusik is telling. From a background of darkness, a spotlight picks out Weill stage right, singing “Speak Low.” Eventually, Lenya, in a spotlight stage left, takes over, with the song’s ending a tender duet. Sharing the song denotes a kind of togetherness, yet the distance between the singers remains—symbol of a separateness for two.

 There follows the 1924 scene where Lenya, then a maid in the household of playwright Georg Kaiser, rowed across the Peetzsee to pick up Weill at the railway station and ferry him across to the Kaiser home for the young composer’s collaboration with the established dramatist. The collaboration between man and woman in the boat became even closer.

 Alfred Uhry, in his book, had to invent a lot, but his inventions are always in character and believable. He has provided much more than song cues: the very plausible story of two sometimes prickly, sometimes complaisant individuals, now rubbing each other achingly wrong, now soothingly smoothing out their differences.

 Harold Prince is an expert director, and he moves his actors around the intimate stage of the Biltmore Theatre with savvy evolved through long experience—including having directed Lenya in Cabaret. In the pit is a ten-piece band playing the masterly orchestrations of Jonathon Tunich, for piano (played by the able conductor, Nicholas Archer), two often honeyed violins, and virile viola and cello, two sensuous woodwinds, a sassy trumpet and sardonic bass, plus drums and percussion. These orchestrations inject the leanness of Weill’s own ones with a bit of Broadway razzmatazz.

 Beowulf Boritt’s scenery gleefully espouses the Brechtian spirit: tongue-in-cheek caricatures that laughingly capture the genius loci, and can handily change moods. Prince had his designer create a commenting inner proscenium, in this case nude figures in erotic interplay that drolly shame the less than orgiastic proceedings, except for one brief moment when, in bed, Lenya straddles the supine Kurt. The sex here, you might say, speaks low like the love.

 There is a cast of ten whose minor members often double, always adroitly. And then there are the amazing principals.

 Michael Cerveris had distinguished himself in several Sondheim musicals among other roles, most recently that of Kent to Kevin Kline’s Lear. His Kurt Weill is exultant on moment, wrenching the next, but always finely calibrated for maximal effect with the most sparing means. The slightest smile, a barely audible sigh, an aborted gesture—and something deep within is magisterially conveyed. Quiet understatement portrays passionate immersion in music; a sweetly fragile singing voice becomes heartrenderingly frailer when imbued with Lenya-caused suffering. His spoken lines come out new-minted; his singing is as simple and straightforward as spoken dialogue.

 Donna Murphy is one of our two or three supreme singing actresses or acting singers. Easefully she gets at Lenya’s essence, at her less than beautiful but enthralling attractiveness. In rebellion, she is endearing; in compliance, ever so slightly bristling. German has a word for it, the untranslatable herb—sharp or rough, yet tasty like dry wine. How drolly she spouts slang, how various she intones the nickname “Weillchen.” She sings superbly, endowing pure tones with a little extra savor, and she is as good at Lenya’s youthful, slightly squeaky soprano as at her later, smoky, around-the-block mezzo. Like Cerveris’s, this is a performance as lived-in as a pair of cherished slippers. Together, these actors create with utter credibility the unlikely union of a proper middle-class Jewish boy and a raunchy, lower-class lapsed Catholic.

 Both of them deftly speak and sing in very pronounced German accents throughout, whether it is meant to be their native German or their foreigner’s English. It could be claimed that the accent should be deployed only for America, but one can also argue for unified continuity throughout. Perhaps like horses, accents should not changed in midstream. In any case, far from producing a Brechtian alienation effect, they are lovably involving.

 David Pittu is a superbly mordant, arrogantly selfish, deliciously sarcastic, funnily infuriating Brecht, down to the man’s visibly carious teeth and dirty fingernails, here only sense. He looks alarmingly like Brecht, in a performance so real you can almost smell it. Prince and Uhry give him a steady retinue of one wife and two mistresses, for musical and sexual backup. Patricia Birch choreographs this ménage a quatre’s movements as drolly as she does the rest of her choreography.

 John Scherer portrays George David with dignified aplomb, and the supporting cast, which includes such major talents as Judith Blazer and Ann Morrison (who also understudies Lenya), is flawlessly flexible. And throughout, there are subtly defined directorial and design touches which one discovers with growing pleasure.
 But what, ultimately, matters most is Weill’s music, which makes that of the best current musicals seem like small, nay, miniscule, potatoes. LoveMusik, whose title suggestively combines English and German, embodies the truth about Weill’s music, which has been wrongly viewed as breakable in halves, European and American. Nonsense: Weill’s music speaks only on fully international language, adapted to all ears, uplifting to all spirits, as this show compellingly demonstrates.

  Twelve fine but quite different lyricists—German, French, American—proved equally perfect fits for these songs that know no boundaries. Thus Maurice Magre’s French lyrics for “Je ne t’aime pas” come across as strikingly in Michael Feingold’s English translation as “I don’t love you.” And what nationality is the music of a thriller like “Surabaya Johnny”—German, American or Javanese? Just as Weill could recycle this music from symphonic to popular or vice versa, the show proves songs from any period or situation equally potent in other contexts or continents. Some of the pungent Brechtian lyrics lose a little in translation (especially when soft-pedaled by Marc Blitzstein), but no matter. The music speaks—low or loud, sweet or bitter, syncopated or flowing—to mind, heart and gut.

 A great Weill song with words by Walter Mehring (not in the show) asks Wie lange noch—how much longer? That is the question LoveMusik raises. How will it survive the mixed reviews, some good, some bad, some uncomprehending? Its staying power on Broadway may be in question; but in one way or another—in performance, on hoped-for disc, or in memory—it should be with us forever.
Weill and Lenya Come to Broadway, Kurt Weill Newsletter
Written By: Elmar Juchem , March 01, 2007

Scheduled for April 2007 is a new musical called LoveMusik. Staged by 20-time Tony winner Harold Prince, with a book by Pulitzer-, Oscar- and Tony-winning playwright Alfred Uhry, the musical features exclusively Weill’s music. The story of LoveMusik was suggested by Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, edited and translated by Lys Symonette and Kim H. Kowalke (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996). Elmar Juchem spoke with the creators.

Harold Prince:

EJ: Tell me about the beginning of this whole venture. What triggered you to tackle a project like this?

HP: What inspired the notion was the letters. When Kim and Lys put the letters in their book so adroitly and then filled in all the blank spots, I thought this is so much fun. There’s nothing pompous or “important” about any of it, just as there was never anything pompous about Lenya. I never met Weill, but I imagine the same holds true for him. So I though there is a musical here, and it’s not epistolary. I hate to go into a theater and see a lectern and know that somebody is going to read letters to me. This will be a real musical. As my producer said, it’s a page turner. You really can’t figure out what the next move is going to be, because it was one of the most eccentric relationships in the world. It’s exasperating. And you say to yourself: how the hell did they stay together? I know they got divorced once, but why didn’t they just get divorced permanently? And then you realize, no, it was Weill and Lenya. So Alfred [Uhry] and I said, what a subtle way, to do a musical which says marriage is what works for two people. And that’s what this musical is about. I think hypocrisy has prevented people from saying that a long time ago, but obviously that’s exactly what marriage is, it’s what works for two people. It surely worked for them. But it was stormy and interesting, they were both irreverent and funny. There’s a line in our show that happened to me and my wife. We went backstage at the Imperial one evening where Cabaret was playing, and we were in dinner clothes. Lenya, who had never seen me in dinner clothes, said, “Oh, kids, where are you headed?” We were rather embarrassed, “caught” in dinner clothes. We said we were going across the street to see Marlene’s [Dietrich] opening night. And she said, looking into the mirror without a pause, “Say hello to Miss No-Talent.” We put it in the show.

Did you get to see Lenya in the 1954 production of Threepenny Opera at the Theater de Lys?

Yes, I saw Threepenny, and I was knocked out.  Marc Blitzstein turned out to be a friend of mine, I liked him enormously. The show itself I saw on my own hook. What’s interesting about it is that I eventually connected to so many people in it. My wife’s stepfather, George Tyne, was one of the leads, he played Mr. Peachum. Marta Curro and Jerry Orbach were great friends, and obviously Jo Sullivan, who played Polly, became a friend. An awful lot of people. It’s very hard to remember how it all happened on that tiny stage. You can remember the “Moritat” and you can remember Lenya. She was too old to play it, I guess, but she gave validity to everything. The production of Threepenny Opera is the only one I dearly loved. Ultimately, what Lenya did for us in Cabaret was humongous. First of all, John [Kander] and Fred [Ebb] wrote for her faux Weill-Brecht songs.  “What Would You Do?” is what the show is about. What would you do? My family comes from Germany. I myself went to Germany in 1951, in uniform, landing in Bremerhaven and then on to Stuttgart and Göppingen, where I spent a year. But you know, years later, after Cabaret, I went back to Munich and a good friend of mine, who was in charge of musical theater for the Bavarian radio , said, “I’m going to find your family.” I knew a lot of them had ended up in concentration camps and I knew my grandmother paid to bring others over. But one mystery remains: one of them lived in Munich throughout the war, a Jewish person with a Jewish identification card stamped with a Jewish star through 1945 and survived the war. How did that happen? A mystery I will never answer. But in ’51, it was a very odd thing, having never been there, to feel immediately a symbiotic connection. And if you look at my work, it’s really influenced by German literature and theater, and expressionism.

So would you have liked to work with Caspar Neher?

Oh yes. He was a giant. But there were others. Boris Aronson, a Russian, came from that tradition. The reason I’m making the point at all is that there is a huge connection between how they designed scenery.

Will this influence be visible in LoveMusik?

By and large, the most important thing is to get it rhythmically to work, which I find has a lot to do with the scenery. The young designer is Beowulf Boritt. I first met him at a New York Public Library clambake and introduced him to my daughter who used him on a show called The Last Five Years. He has since had a very successful career, and I know we’d work together. But what did I want? Well, what I wanted created more false starts than you can ever imagine. Because what I wanted was something I had never seen before, but that would in some way recommend a connection to the way these things used to be done, without being authentically the way they were done. After all, it’s 2006 and it’s going to be ’07.And that’s what he delivered. I said the most important thing for you to do is surprise me. I have a lifetime of surprises from Boris. In the opening scene, you meet a man on a dock on the mainland, and a boat comes to tale him to Georg Kaiser’s house on an island. We’re in the green woody lakes of Germany. I can do that myself. I don’t want to see that. I was to see something that tells the audience that this isn’t what you’re getting. And he brought me a sketch for a dock. It’s black. On a red polished stage. The minute I saw that, I told him he’d licked the problem.

Can you reveal a little more about the scenery?

We’re going to have titles, but they will show up in different places all the time. I want to be able to work in the house, I want to be able to pop stairs out of both sides of the pit, so my cast can suddenly appear as soon as I decide, and act as a chorus and go into scenes. So in the magistrate’s office, for example, there is the German flag, you get Kurt, Lenya and a court stenographer, and then you need another witness, so one of the musicians in the pit climbs the stairs and acts as a witness. And there will be a production number, “Schickelgruber”, done by Weill and Brecht, and you will see the Depression in Germany silhouetted behind them. No Adolf Hitler, just the Depression that led to Adolf Hitler.

This reminds me of a scene that was cut from Cabaret.

Yes, that’s where it comes from. I’ve always wanted to do it, and I thought now is my opportunity to salvage it. It makes a marvelous picture and covers the same ground. There will be a Paris scene involving Tilly Losch, and Act II starts in Hoboken, a Comden & Green Hoboken, with a streetwalker, a milkman, a stevedore and a policeman. At some point Lenya and Weill will meet George Davis.

Did you know George Davis personally?

No, I never met him. But I think the new book February House is extraordinary. He was an amazing man and a brilliant writer. He wrote a novel thirty years earlier [The Opening of a Door (New York:  Harper & Brothers, 1931)]. It’s wonderful, worth reading, a family memoir. He was a giant. Though he was gay, she married the right man. Marriage worked for them. And that’s what he says to her. So we get the opportunity to make the point of the play twice. The hardest thing to do, though, was to kill Kurt Weill off. How do you do that? Because the storytelling is so strong. How do you show that a man has a heart attack and dies at a critical, decision-making moment in his life? That’s the story, and it’s a good story, and it’s a true story. I think we found a way. Without ever examining it, you have to know the Lenya lived with it all the rest of her life. Incidentally, we excised the funeral with the “lady in black.” That’s one of those stories you want to put into a show, but it didn’t belong.

Are you aware that the “lady in black” is still alive?

I am. Apparently a beautiful old lady. But it didn’t seem relevant. When I did Evita, I discovered that Evita had been buried mysteriously. Eleven bodies were sent out when she died, to different cemeteries all over the world. And no one but on general was told which casket had her in it. That story infatuated me. I made them put it in at the end. And in a public sentence Che Guevara says, “Her body disappeared for seventeen years.” And it just leaves you there. And the audience says, “What was that all about?” It was taking care of Hal Prince’s need to share some hugely bizarre story, but it was an irrelevant tag. Well, that’s how I felt about the “lady in black.” So she will just have to go unseen.

You didn’t get to know Weill personally, but you saw the original runs of some of his shows on Broadway, I believe. Can you tell us a little about your experience?

I saw Kickerboker Holiday and remember it vividly, I saw Lady in the Dark at the Alvin—sat in the balcony—I lost my mind. Saw it twice. I saw the South African one, Lost in the Stars. Mind you, I saw Lenya in Candle in the Wind and in Barefoot in Athens. But I never met Weill. I became visible in the theater in 1954m when I produced Pajama Game. But then he had died. And that’s why he is the only one I didn’t get to meet. I got to know Moss Hart very well, and also Lindsay and Crouse. I met Robert Sherwood and Rouben Mamoulian.

Did any of Weill’s shows influence LoveMusik?

There is a number in the second act that is meant to represent all those concept musicals that I owe great debt to. It will be an abstract production number about success and marriage, influenced by Lady in the Dark. And Love Life, from which the material comes.

You also saw Love Life?

Oh yes, Love Life didn’t work, whereas Lady in the Dark really did. Love Life was too much of everything. And I don’t think Gadge [Kazan], whom I got to know, knew how to organize that. I was asked to do Love Life again when they did it at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia., but I didn’t know how to solve its problems. Perhaps because I saw it back then? Why was there a tightrope? Why wasn’t it all simplified down to “Let’s follow these people through American history”? Why did it have the extra stuff? I thought it just got very complicated. But it’s wildly talented.

A lot of ideas are in there.

Lord, yes. This whole business about the concept musical that’s been pinned on Steve and me—the truth is it did precede us. Lady in the Dark is a very good example of what Follies became. Lady in the Dark is very hard to do now. They are talking about it again, but it’s very hard, because it is structured so rigidly.

And you need a really good lead.

You need more than a very good lead. I think you need to break the structure. Or it will never work. I mean Julie Andrews wanted to do it. And I talked to Kitty [Carlisle Hart], and I thought you can’t just go scene, dream, scene, dream, scene—it just won’t happen. You’ve got to break the shape of it once and for all. If you had seen Follies you’d see that we created a musical that was like a Fellini movie, with the dreams inside the scenes. What else can I tell you?

When did you start thinking about casting?

Early on, I served as a judge for the Lotte Lenya Competition for Singers, maybe a year and a half ago. And a week before that Kim asked, “Do you have any ideas?” Yes, I said, I know who I want to play Weill. Michael Cerveris. And he leapt out of his seat. So, Michael Cerveris it is. And finding Lenya was a bitch of an assignment. Donna Murphy did an exciting reading. Donna Murphy is Lenya. Lenya’s voice was deceptive; odd, but such a voice. And it’s very hard to be as fragile as Lenya and as canny. I had a very good relationship with her—Fred Ebb had a better one, closer. During Cabaret she was married to Russell Detwiler, and she came in, battered, and said, “I was walking my dog, and the leash curled around my ankle and I fell,” but I didn’t believe a word of it. And I was right. At one point she had to stop for a bit, because she was so bruised, and at another point she left us to make a movie for the great Sidney Lumet. She went to Rome, made the movie, and then came back. She was loyal, disciplined, very hard-working. Perhaps more interesting than her singing of “What Would You Do?” was her dancing with the sailors. She knew how to take stage in a number with six young men.

When I look at LoveMusik, I see that it’s the story about an artist and his muse. If I wanted to be facetious, I could say that Phantom of the Opera is a story about an artist and his muse. Are there similarities?

No, I don’t think there are. It never occurred to me. I guess wherever there’s an artist, there’s a muse. Phantom is Svengali. There nothing Svengali about Weill and Lenya. She presented his material better than anybody else did. There’s a story I know that is not apocryphal. When I saw One Touch of Venus, my favorite number that “That’s Him.” Not so many years ago, on 43rd Street, they named a theater after Cheryl Crawford. And Mary Martin came and she turned a chair around and sang “That’s Him” the way she’d done it. I’m told that she did not know how to do that song. And Lenya said to Kurt, “I could show her.” And Kurt said, “Would you mind if Lenya came in and showed you what to do with that song?” So Lenya came in, put the chair down, turned it around, and didn’t do anything. And that’s the best staging of any song I ever saw. Lenya knew the value of “still.” So did Mary. Mary was a great musical comedy lady, but she had difficulty nailing that song.

If you were pressed to label LoveMusik, would you call it a musical or a play with a lot of music?

I think it’s a musical. The musical comedy thing I gave up years ago. My producer said, “Never in a million years did I think I’d produce this show. But you just want to know from scene to scene what is going to happen to these people. How is this going to happen? It’s totally fascinating!” It’s an entertainment, a musical entertainment. And I think much of the audience may come in not knowing who either of them is. There’s something—always was—there’s something erotic, sexy about Lotte Lenya, and strange and fascinating in their relationship.

When will you open?

We’re schedule to open in the spring. I think opening small is a good idea.

Alfred Uhry:

EJ: Speak Low is a really thick book. And condensing all those pages and 26 years into a stage work of two hours plus—What was the most agonizing aspect of this task?

AU: The most agonizing thing was figuring out what I could do without, what scene is expendable in a theater pieces, because I’m not doing history, I’m writing a story about people. And that was hard, to get enough of what happened in, without going overboard and having long scenes. I didn’t want long scenes. And a lot of it was just to suggest. To raise questions and not necessarily answer them. So obviously the difficult aspect was the selective part. Choosing songs wasn’t hard, that just seemed to come out of there. And there were so many. We could always go back and do version B and have a whole other set of songs.

How did you prepared for your task? What did you read?

I guess I knew about Weill and Lenya, but not a whole lot. When Hal [Prince] sent me the correspondence and practically the same day all these CDs arrived, I was terrified. I tend to spend-read, but I thought how do I do this? I read Speak Low many times. And I read a lot of biographies of both of them. And I got into it somehow. My family is from Germany, and Hal also has German and Austrian background, so we got the whole “German” thing. My father’s family in from Alsace and my mother’s side from Darmstadt. My grandmother was born in Atlanta, though. Luckily for me, my next door neighbor for many years—she’s gone now—she was a Viennese woman, and I had her voice in my ear. Of course, there’s Lenya. Weill came alive for me when I saw the film footage that exists. He was a small, very virile, interesting man. I liked that.

I suspect you are too young to have seen Weill’s shows on Broadway, but did you see Threepenny Off-Broadway in the 1950s?

Actually, when I was a kid I saw Lost in the Stars, my mother took me to see it. I remember being overwhelmed. And I saw a revival of it as a grown man, in the early ‘70s, and it was the same feeling. That was remarkable, too. Threepenny I saw while I was in college but I don’t remember whether I saw Lenya. I kind of feel like I did. We were all hip theater people, wore black, smoked cigarettes, and listened to the Threepenny Opera all the time. I knew many more songs, of course, like “It Never Was You,” but didn’t know where it came from. So I was determined to find a place for it in the show; that’s one of the best songs, and amazing lyric too, Anderson wasn’t even a lyricist. “Here I’ll Stay” was another one, but you can’t do all of them. It was a big help to me to get there two Teresa Stratas albums, because I never would have found some of the songs, like “Buddy on the Nightshift,” which is remarkable, that lopey kind of swing-along.

Were there other songs you wanted to use or you felt like you had to use?

I knew I had to use certain songs, I had to use a version of “Mack the Knife,” I had to do “Alabama Song.” I really wanted to use “September Song.” And that was tricky, because I didn’t want it to sound like it was coming from the show. It’s such a famous song, and I also realized that it really is a proposal about marriage or living together. It’s very difficult to five it a proper lead-in. I think that’s the hardest. That is the most delicate part of the craft of writing a book for a musical, because you don’t want to write a scene that says the same thing as the song says—and then what? You don’t want to sound shoehorned in, like things in Mamma Mia!, which is great for Mamma Mia! You have to make it sound like it belongs. And “September Song” is the hardest, because it is so famous.

So, did any of Weill’s shows inform the structure of LoveMusik?

Threepenny certainly informed me. The musical numbers were not really continuing the scene, it was another scene, the songs commenting, which I tried. I also didn’t want to repeat myself. Also Love Life, which I didn’t see. But I knew it was done with commentary. I really wanted to avoid the Rodgers & Hammerstein thing—which Weill did do sometimes in the ‘30s and ‘40s. I mean in the “If I Loved You” scene they are looking at each other. I think I wanted to have real singing. And it really comments. There are a couple of places where they don’t do that, but I wanted to do that just to be different. I wanted to do stuff that I thought was true to their style. And whether it is or it isn’t—I don’t know. But I didn’t want it to come out of the scene. Take it somewhere else.

In terms of dialogue writing—with the few lines that you are given—how do you capture their essence? The essence of their relationship?

Well, I hear it reading the letters. And I think playwrights have imagination. And, as I said, I felt it. The letters were really the temperature of the whole thing. And I appreciate that in the letters—And I’m sure in their lives—a lot went unsaid. Deep feelings pretty much went unsaid, which I kind of understand. They were certainly people with huge sensitivities, very private, even though Lenya said she wasn’t, but I’m sure she was. And very vulnerable, both of them, no matter what they said. So, I tried to write a lot of it above the surface—have everything leading to it. Sometimes I quote from the things he said, not much, but some. They really were an inspiration to me because they were so unique. And I came to love them both very much.

To the point that you could identify with them?

It took me a while to understand how Weill could be married to Lenya, knowing that she was sleeping with everyone who came along. I mean, he did have his own love affairs, real love affairs. Hers were more like, “you tonight, and you tomorrow.” And I thought I don’t know if I could’ve done that, but I came to realize that I didn’t have to do it. He did, and I think he was very fond of Lenya, she served as his inspiration and wasn’t all at fault. I know that when he was working, he wasn’t there for days and days, and he said from the beginning, “I’m the music, that’s what I am.” I have to believe that they were in love with each other, in their way. And their way was very interesting.  But I really came to appreciate what a wonderful composer he was. I can’t imagine what it’s like to write music. I imagine it’s like what I do, I don’t know if it’s a mystery or not, but that’s what I do. I appreciate what he accomplished. And I hope that the audience will understand what it was like to come to this country, and then have—what?—five shows in five years or something like that. Amazing. I also think it’s sad to think that he must have died thinking the Threepenny was never going to be successful in this country.

He  actually died thinking that most of his European works were lost.

Mahagonny, too?

Yes, Mahagonny, Bürgschaft, and a whole lot more. They all surfaced after his death.—Can you tell us about other characters in the show?

Hal said in the beginning, “I think it should seem like a play, because you know you write Driving Miss Daisy, a play with a few people in it.” And I enjoy that line of work anyway, but it took me a while to pick the characters. Brecht, I wanted him in, and George Davis. And a few more people. Elisabeth Hauptmann and a couple of other woman, but they are not really in it. It’s hard. The main problem really is: is it a bio drama? It is, and it isn’t. It is not a strict bio drama, and I didn’t try to show exactly what happened. But I don’t think I invented anything that probably couldn’t have happened.

How was the collaboration with Hal?

He’s a wonderful collaborator, because he really listens. And he doesn’t steamroll at all, he doesn’t try to write anything, but he pushed the project. There’s nothing in here that he wanted that I didn’t or vice versa. Hal said on the first day, “You’ve been married for a long time, and I’ve been married for a long time. And what interests me is the way people manage to stay together, because I don’t think any two are the same.” And he added, “I don’t want to reveal your secrets or my secrets, whatever they may be, but I think we are equipped to examine these people. Because they managed to make it work for a while.” We couldn’t wait to get together we had such a wonderful time. Patricia Birch, the choreographer—she did a lot of Hal’s things, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overturns, Parade—she’s a real theater choreographer, she knows everything. When I wanted to have something to do with Tilly Losch, she knew how to do it, she knew what I meant.

What about the title?

For a long time we didn’t know what to call it, and then it occurred to me it should be half in English, and half in German, without making a big deal out of it. Seems like the right thing to do: LoveMusik.

 

Musical Numbers for Lovemusik

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Writers Notes for Lovemusik


Written By: Alfred Uhry

LOVEMUSIK is the real life story of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, and the love and music they shared.  Theirs was a tumultuous relationship, passionate, uneven and eventful, sweeping across the second quarter of the Twentieth Century from Berlin to New York to Hollywood.  It tells the story of their collaboration with Bertold Brecht in such works as THE THREEEPENNY OPERA and MAHAGONNY, their escape from Nazi Germany, and the later lives of all three in America.  With the help of the Kurt Weill Estate, I was given access to material that was familiar (MAC THE KNIFE, MOON OF ALABAMA, SEPTEMBER SONG, SPEAK LOW, ETC) and material that was not (BUDDY ON THE NIGHT SHIFT, BERLIN IN LIGHT, SHICKELGRUBER, ETC).  The Weill songs, with lyrics by Brecht, Alan Jay Lerner, Ogden Nash, and, surprisingly, Oscar Hammerstein II, range from romance to cynicism to comedy.  They underline and impassion the story of these two highly gifted theatre artists who adored and betrayed and upheld each other, all at the same time.  I mean it to be presented in Weill/Brecht style, high key lighting, not much scenery, and a lot of theatrical imagination.  It should be fierce and fun and, ultimately, heart breaking.


Written By: Hal Prince

When I was in high school, I recall standing in a long line to purchase tickets in advance for the opening of Kurt Weill’s ONE TOUCH OF VENUS. Previously, my parents had taken me to KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY, LADY IN THE DARK, and LOVE LIFE on Broadway and I had seen the German film of Brecht and Weill’s THREEPENNY OPERA countless times. I was hooked.

In 1965, I went into rehearsal for the original production of CABARET which starred, among others, Weill’s widow, Lotte Lenya. She epitomized the Weimar era in Germany and was among the last living performers from that golden period, which helped to give our production authenticity. The show was a huge success and we became good friends over its long run. I learned from her that the marriage to Weill was a stormy one, but that they always adored each other. What interested me was how much freedom he permitted her during their marriage in Germany and their subsequent re-marriage when they came to the United States, fleeing from the Third Reich.
Weill spent a good deal of time in Hollywood writing film scores and, during that time, as devoted as they were, their marriage was an open one. What fascinated me was that although Weill certainly didn’t relish his wife’s outside affairs, he actually wrote THE FIREBRAND OF FLORENCE to feature one of her other lovers in the co-starring role. He accepted their arrangement, but ironically Lenya did not, so, when she discovered that he had a mistress in California for at least a decade, she was deeply hurt. I found that ironical and, of course, theatrical.

So, I asked Alfred Uhry if he’d be interested in writing a biographical musical that was ultimately a powerful love story and which featured both Weill’s European oeuvre and his extremely popular Broadway scores. He was hooked.
The result was LOVEMUSIK, which seemed to fascinate audiences and critics alike.


Performance Tools for Lovemusik

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MAKE YOUR OWN PLAYBILL! Playbill VIP allows you to create your very own Playbill Program. We have provided Playbill with all of the credits, song listings, musical numbers and more so that most of the work is already done for you. Just add your productions details, photos of the cast and share it with all of your friends. Learn more: www.playbillvip.com


Rental Materials for Lovemusik

STANDARD

  • LOVEMUSIK - Rehearsal Set (20 Books)
    • 10 – Piano Conductor Score
    • 10 – Libretto Book
    • 1 – Digital Logo
  • LOVEMUSIK - Orchestration Package
    • 1 – Trumpet
    • 1 – Percussion (Drum Kit, Tom Toms, Triangle, Wood Blcok, Temple Blocks, Ratchet, Glockenspiel, Chime [G: 8ve+5th above middle C}
    • 1 – Violin I
    • 1 – Violin 2
    • 1 – Viola
    • 1 – Cello
    • 1 – Bass
    • 1 – Piano Conductor Score
    • 1 – Reed I (Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone)
    • 1 – Reed II
  • LOVEMUSIC - Libretto 10 Pack
    • 10 – Libretto Book
    • 10 – Piano Conductor Score

ADDITIONAL

  • LOVEMUSIK - Pre Production Pack
    • 1 – Piano Conductor Score
    • 1 – Libretto Book

Cast Requirements for Lovemusik

PRINCIPALS
3 Men
1 Woman

FEATURED
3 Men
3 Women

CAST OF CHARACTERS
Kurt Weill
Lotte Lenya
Bertolt Brecht
George Davis

ENSEMBLE CHARACTERS
(Played by 6 actors in the original Broadway production - 3 Men, 3 Women)
Woman on Stairs
Weill’s Family
Lenya’s Family
Magistrate
Court Secretary
Brecht’s Wife
Brecht’s Women (2)
Boxers (2)
Tango Dancers
Stage Manager
Auditioners:
Irene Pechner
Erik Geibel
Announcer/Emcee (Off Stage)
Four Stagehands
Wardrobe Mistress
Pit Singers
Interviewer
Members of the Orchestra
Partygoers/Guests
Otto
Stenographer
Judge
Allen Lake
Photographer
Drum Majorette
Announcer at Madison Square Garden
Stage Manager
Handyman
Bride’s Mother
Madam Zuzu (a man in drag)
Father-in-law
Wardrobe Mistress
Hairdresser (male)
Streetsinger’s Voice (Off Stage)

Set Requirements for Lovemusik

LOVEMUSIK takes place between 1924 and 1954 in Berlin, New York and Santa Monica, California. Author Alfred Uhry recommends LOVEMUSIK “to be presented in Weill/Brecht style, high key lighting, not much scenery, and a lot of theatrical imagination.

Scene List:
Act 1
Lake Peetzsee, Near Berlin, 1924
Weill’s Flat in Berlin
Weill’s Apartment, Winter, 1925
Magistrate’s Office, Berlin
Gymnasium, Berlin
A Stage
Theatre Am Shiffbauerdamm, Berlin
Interview
Kleinmachnow, Berlin Suburb
Lenya’s Dressing Room, Berlin
Weill in Paris; Lenya Touring Germany
The Bed
S.S. Majestic

Act 2
Hoboken, New Jersey, 1935
Municipal Court House, New York
Harper’s Bazaar
Le Ruban Bleu Nightclub, New York, 1940
Brecht’s Beach Cottage, Santa Monica
Madison Square Garden, New York
Weill House, New City, New York
Alvin Theatre, New York
Weill In Los Angeles, Lenya In New York
Weill House, New City, 1950
The Suitcase
The Weill House
Theatre De Lys, New York, 1954

Materials Notes

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Archival

1. Subject to the information provided in Licensee’s application and payment of the fee as set forth in Paragraph 3 herein, Licensee shall have the right to create a single copy of the Video for internal archival, private viewing purposes at Licensee’s address only and shall not be re-copied, distributed or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed without the prior written approval of R&H. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Video shall not be (i) sold to anyone (ii) telecast by any television station or network, including, without limitation, any local cable station or (iii) distributed, exhibited or otherwise exploited over the Internet or as part of any online auction.

2. Licensee agrees to include the following language at the beginning of the Video:

©Year By R&H Theatricals. This production was videotaped by special arrangement with R&H Theatricals for archival purposes only. All Rights Reserved.

WARNING: Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution or exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures, videotapes or videodiscs. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and may constitute a felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000.00 fine.

This Video is provided to you for private, organizational and home viewing purposes only. By accepting the Video, you agree not to authorize or permit the Video to be copied, distributed, broadcast, telecast or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed.

*You must be and licensed to present Lovemusik in order to license Archival rights. Please contact customer service with any questions.

Distribution

1. Licensee shall have the right to create the Video and to make up to one hundred (100) copies of the Video for sale at cost to its Members for internal archival, private viewing purpose at Licensee’s address and for private, home-viewing purpose by Members, and shall not be re-copied, distributed or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed without the prior written approval of R&H. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Video shall not be (i) sold to anyone other than the Members (ii) telecast by any television station or network, including, without limitation, any local cable station or (iii) distributed, exhibited or otherwise exploited over the Internet or as part of any online auction.

2. Licensee agrees to include the following language at the beginning of the Video:

©Year By R&H Theatricals. This production was videotaped by special arrangement with R&H Theatricals for archival purposes only. All Rights Reserved. WARNING: Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution or exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures, videotapes or videodiscs. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and may constitute a felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000.00 fine. This Video is provided to you for private, organizational and home viewing purposes only. By accepting the Video, you agree not to authorize or permit the Video to be copied, distributed, broadcast, telecast or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed.

*You must be and licensed to present Lovemusik in order to license Distribution rights. Please contact customer service with any questions.
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