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Mamoulian Has a Fan in Weill

by Vernon Rice

Source: New York Post, October 26, 1949

We met Kurt Weill at the Algonquin to talk about Kurt Weill and the musical drama, “Lost in the Stars,” which he and Maxwell Anderson made from Alan Paton’s book, “Cry, the Beloved Country,” and which opens Sunday night at the Music Box.

His Most Exciting Experience

We met the composer, all right, but it was hard to get him to talk about anyone or anything else but Rouben Mamoulian, the noted director who is staging the work. If Mr. Mamoulian doesn’t know it, he’s got a strong booster and devoted fan in the diminutive musician.

“Mamoulian has done every kind of show and he’s had every kind of experience. He knows all about music and like everybody who knows his business, he’s very easy to work with,” praised Weill.

“What anybody says about our job, Max’s and mine, Mamoulian’s work has been outstanding.

“I’m terribly impressed with him,” the composer added.

Collaboration of Three

“On the whole, it’s been a collaboration between the three of us. Max and I have been planning to do another play together ever since ‘Knickerbocker Holiday.’ When we decided to get together on ‘Cry, the Beloved Country,’ Max was busy on ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’ and I was working on ‘Love Life.’

“Last December, when we were both through with our shows, we went to work. In the spring we sent the script to Mamoulian. He had three commitments, but he cancelled them to do this play.

“It’s been one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in my career, beginning with the writing and working with Mamoulian, right through the casting and rehearsals.

“We have tried to tell the basic story of the book. The great danger in bringing a book to the stage is that you fall in love with the details and miss the basic story. I hope we have avoided that.

“This situation in South Africa, where the story is laid, is a very tragic one. It’s one of those deadlocks. The white people know they have taken the land from the Negro, but they have been there hundreds of years, so it has become their homeland.

“Out of that a state of mutual fear has developed. We feel it is significant of the whole world today.

“This is such a basic idea. It’s so strong that you don’t have to punch it much.

“The beauty of the book is that it is told in terms of a personal story. The only way to express an idea is to tell it in terms of a personal story. In the case of the Negro problem, it’s much better this way than preaching.”

A Number of Songs

For this first production of the Playwrights’ Company for the new season, which will feature Todd Duncan and the English actor, Leslie Banks, Weill has written 18 musical numbers. Six or eight of these, he claims are songs.

“George Jenkins has designed a beautiful production, very simple, very ingenious, but the whole thing comes over as a show,” Weill said.

Summing up his own feelings about the work that went into the production he stated, “We all have the feeling we have done something. There it is. We hope it is good.”

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