Lady in the Dark, Musical by K. Weill
Kurt Weill is perhaps best known for his longstanding collaboration with Bertolt Brecht, but the German composer had a very fruitful American period. The musical Lady in the Dark marks a pinnacle in Weill’s creative tenure in the United States, elevated even further by Ira Gershwin’s incomparable lyrics and the book and direction of Moss Hart. It premiered on Broadway in 1941 where it garnered excellent reviews. A movie version in 1944 and a live television special in 1954 cemented the popularity of Lady in the Dark, and it enjoys regular revivals across the world’s most renowned stages. This season, Volksoper Wien in Vienna pays homage to Kurt Weill with a fresh production of this classic musical.
Lady in the Dark focuses on the perpetually hesitant Liza Elliott. Even though she is the editor of Allure Magazine, she finds it hard to come to any professional or personal decision. Her chief concern is which of the two men in her life she should pick: her still-married publisher Kendall Nesbitt, or her advertising manager Randy Curtis. Plagued by constant indecision, Liza starts seeing a psychotherapist who helps her delve deep into her dreams and memories in search for answers. Her therapy sessions act as the three movements of the musical, roughly separated into the Glamour Dream, the Wedding Dream, and the Circus Dream.
The clever plot device of dreams and play-within-a-play allowed Weill and Gershwin to build up Liza’s character and to inject just the right amount of foreshadowing and musical leitmotifs to keep audience at the edge of their seats. As Liza dives into her past in search for straight and convincing answers, a haunting melody appears over and over again, but the words escape her – until a gentleman she had not considered before rushes to the rescue and finally delivers the certainty and clarity Liza has been longing for. Lady in the Dark is a stunning example of Kurt Weill’s power to craft musical metaphors and create tonal moods, on top of being a colourful and entertaining stage work. Volksoper Wien does the musical justice with its exciting new production.