Feb 7, 2011

All Not "Lost"

photo by Joan Marcus

The Encores! run of Weill and Anderson's Lost in the Stars was too short for us to weigh the reviews on StageGrade. But I did compile all the reviews out of personal interest. I saved them to read until after I'd seen this seldom-performed 1949 "musical tragedy" on Saturday night. My wife and I were mostly enjoying ourselves when I overheard someone in the audience--an enthusiastic, even ecstatic audience, if I may say so--exclaim to a friend at intermission, in apparent disbelief, "Well, the Times hated it!"

Still, that didn't quite prepare me for Charles Isherwood's breathtaking diss of the endeavor ("a jumbo can of spinach," was his pronouncement), though he saved a few kind words for conductor Rob Berman and the cast. I was even less prepared for Erik Haagensen's equally harsh slam, which took roughly the opposite approach, deploring the production as a travesty of a still potent work. Maybe the show had improved by the night I saw it; I found it an entirely worthy outing, and most of all I found Weill's score thrilling enough to compensate for the odd shape and often stodgy pieties of Anderson's book. I'm afraid it may not make the case for the work's stage-worthiness, as Haagensen seems to feel, but as a kind of stage oratorio, I would count this a rich addition to the repertory (and, as I've mentioned, chances to hear these scores live are, for me, personal landmarks).

Thankfully, it turns out that I and my wife (herself no particular Weill-o-phile, I should note) were not crazy; a number of my colleagues felt similarly warmish to the show. On the positive side of the ledger of reviews, I would count Mark Kennedy's for the AP, Michael Sommers' for New Jersey Newsroom, Joe Dziemanowicz's for NY Daily News, Michael Dale's for Broadwayworld, Elisabeth Vincentelli's for the Post, and Matt Windman's for amNewYork. Coming in with more equivocal judgments were Variety's Steve Suskin, New York's Scott Brown, Newsday's Linda Winer, Talkin' Broadway's Matthew Murray, and Theatermania's David Finkle. Indeed, the only outright slams I found were from the aforementioned Isherwood and Haagensen.

I don't pretend to be objective about Kurt Weill, whose stature, for me personally, only increases the more I hear his scores sung and played live. But my own taste aside, I do think it a worthy goal to set the record straight--particularly when the paper of record doesn't quite represent the consensus.

UPDATE: And Feingold turns in another one for the positive ledger.

1 comment:

Elisabeth Vincentelli said...

I enjoyed the show so much that I was startled to see there wasn't a consensus around it. One may disagree about the merits of the book (which I actually found better than expected) but the score is beautiful. Presenting a show like Lost in the Stars is exactly what Encores! was created for.
Now if only they could get to Tip-Toes or Billion Dollar Baby...