New York City Theater
How often are expectations unfulfilled? You can’t get a better pedigree than director Harold Prince, stars Donna Murphy and Michael Ceveris and the lives of Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya and Betrolt Brecht. Yet Alfred (“Driving Miss Daisy”) book has so little urgency that it eventually puffs away its potential.
Driven from Nazi Germany, the scholarly, shy Weill and his tough, “common not stupid” wife Lenya shuffle from Paris to New York. Dogging them like a prowling animal is the unlikable, though equally brilliant Brecht.
The show means to tell their stories through the unmistakable music of Weill, as often interpreted by Lenya. Brecht, of course, was Weill’s librettist for such well-known works as “The Threepenny Opera,” “Mahagonny” and “Happy End.” But Weill’s success went beyond his early German collaborations, encompassing Broadway hits like “One Touch of Venus,” “Lady in the Dark,” “Knickerbocker Holiday” and “Lost in the Stars.”
Blessedly, “LoveMusik” is generous with excerpts both famous (“Speak Low” “September Song”) and not (“Klops Lied,” “How Can You Tell an American?”). And the first of two acts, the European half, holds interest. In writing about America, however, Prince and Uhry have nowhere to go and so begin to repeat themselves. Detailing the political climate that threw the trio out of Europe might very well have been mirrored in the American experience. Instead, we get excruciating stuff about Brecht’s womanizing and shallow stuff about the Weill-Lenya rivalry and their relationship with literary maven George Davis.
For all its frustrations, however, “LoveMusik” has three sterling assets: Murphy as Lenya, Ceveris as Weill and David Pittu as Brecht are performers of the first rank, heartbreakingly believable in their search for authenticity and love. With them on stage, even the ersatz becomes real.
David A. Rosenberg
May 28, 2007