Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Berlin to broadway with Kurt Weill"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark

"Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill"

Music by Kurt Weill
Lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, Bertolt Brecht, Michael Feingold, Paul Green, Alan Jay Lerner, George Tabori, Marc Blitzstein, Jacques Deval, Ira Gershwin, Langston Hughes, Ogden Nash & Arnold Weinstein
Text and Format by Gene Lerner
Musical Arrangements by Newton Wayland

Musical Direction by Tim Evans
Choreography by Theresa Melito
Directed by Celia Couture and Nancy Curran Willis

Set Design by Jeremy Barnett
Lighting Designed by Jeff Benish
Costume and Properties Design by Molly Trainer
Stage Manager Nicole Jesson

Benjamin DiScipio
Eileen Nugent
Chip Phillips
Miranda Russell

Keyboards.......Tim Evans
Drums........Leo Sharamitaro

Kurt Weill never wrote the lyrics nor the book, but he collaborated with some of the most famous names in musical theater on two continents for decades. Just writing the music for Bertolt Brecht, Jaques Deval, Paul Green, Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner, Ogden Nash, and Langston Hughes, he spilled out scores in several styles --- and, still in his teens, he knocked off a symphony just for practice. Now, out on The Gloucester Stage, a musical voyage called "Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill" digs beneath the surfaces of the lyrics to emphasize the beauty, bite, and cohesive originality in everything Weill wrote. Many songs in this thirty-eight tune show will be totally new, others are standards, but in the hands of this accomplished quartet of singers all of them are excellent.

The production's Musical Director Tim Evans has preserved the flavor of Newton Wayland's arrangements for these songs, allowing the lovely music to shine through both the sense of the lyrics and the plot-settings of "Mack The Knife" or "Lost in The Stars". And co-directors Celia Couture and Nancy Curran Willis have given the singers very simple props, minimal blocking, and only occasional tiny dance routines by Theresa A. Melito.

The singing here is everything, but the lovely voices of Eileen Nugent, Miranda Russell, Ben DiScipio and Chip Phillips would be nothing without the clear understanding from each singer of exactly where the strengths, humor, and lyricism of every line and every note should be best expressed. In their hands the show is much less a mere cabaret turn than a genuine journey, paying stops in rhythmical Veimar cynecism and lush Broadway romance --- each new or familiar port of call given its due.

It's surprising that Tim Evans on keyboards and Leo Sharamitaro on drums are the only accompaniment here, but again it's not the dramatic potential of each song, but the unity of effect in so many songs that is center-stage. The text and format by Gene Lerner focus on that music. Even Jeremy Barnett's spare set and Jeff Benish's lighting, Molly Trainer's costumes and props, are all muted into accents and details. The singers and the songs, with Weill as the constant element, make the evening unforgettable.


"Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill" (26 June - 14 July)
Gorton Theatre, 267 Main Streeet, GLOUCESTER MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide