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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Tony Award Preview Week: LoveMusik

book by Alfred Uhry, music by Kurt Weill
directed by Harold Prince
starring Michael Cerveris, Donna Murphy, David Pittu, Judith Blazer and John Scherer
Manhattan Theatre Club/Biltmore Theatre, New York City

On paper, LoveMusik looks like a can't-miss proposition. A new musical exploring the tumultuous marriage of composer Kurt Weill and his muse/chanteuse, Lotte Lenya, is a damned brilliant idea. Using Weill's back catalog, which includes some of the greatest songs ever written for the musical theater, is an even better one. Mix the whole thing together with an award-winning writer, Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy), a legendary icon in the director's chair (Hal Prince, The Phantom of the Opera) and a top-notch cast including Tony winners Donna Murphy (Wonderful Town) and Michael Cerveris (Sweeney Todd), and the entire enterprise takes on the air of undefeatable greatness.

And that's why theater is so marvelously unpredictable. Because LoveMusik is the messiest, most unfocused work to hit Broadway this season, a great idea mired in an unformed morass. There's undeniably a story here, but as the story blunders ahead -- from Weill's early life in Germany, to his WWII escape to Paris, to his successes in America -- audiences will be looking for a point to it all, something that is escaping the creators. The biggest idea of the show -- that Weill and Lenya were in love all along, but couldn't face the fact -- is obvious in the first five minutes, and its repeated hammering over the next 2 hours and 45 minutes (yep, you read that right) beats any significance in their relationship into nothingness. Prince, willfully ignoring the script and pacing problems, offers a Berliner-style presentation looks flatter than it is; the songs lose their majesty, and the show itself seems small and pointless.

We're left with the marvelous Donna Murphy, who gives a delightfully odd turn as Ms. Lenya…she is perhaps not as iconoclastically unique as the woman she is playing, but she creates a stylish gloss on Lenya's greatness that is affecting and entertaining. Cerveris has the harder job, trying to turn the nebbishy Weill into a potent leading man. It's a task that eludes him, despite his considerably voice and talent. Among the remaining players, David Pittu has a few moments of charm playing Bertolt Brecht as the ultimate con artist. But in the end, LoveMusik is just sad…a pale shadow of its potential.

BONUS: If you want to read a hilarious (but absolutely dead-on) analysis of LoveMusik, check out the brilliant Broadway Abridged.

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