Everything about Lady in the Dark was grand, new, and exciting when it opened on Broadway on 23 January 1941, even though it bore the imprint of all three experienced theater veterans who had written it: Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin (music and lyrics) and Moss Hart (book). Both the subject matter–psychoanalysis–and structure–book scenes contrasted with extended musical sequences defining the heroine’s dreams–were novel and striking, provoking near-unanimous enthusiasm from critics and audiences. The Broadway script did not survive intact in the published score and libretto, but the recent critical edition has gone a long way toward rediscovering the dramatic power of the show by restoring the book and music much as they were presented back in 1941. That impetus provided by the Kurt Weill Edition meets its match in a rich and carefully conceived production from the 120-strong choral ensemble MasterVoices, aided by a sterling roster of stars and creative team members, that promises to recapture that 1941 magic and make it accessible to today’s audiences. For this production, the script has been edited and adapted by Moss Hart’s son Christopher Hart and Foundation president Kim H. Kowalke; the score will be played and sung in its entirety.
Led by MasterVoices artistic director Ted Sperling, the performances at City Center boast a remarkable cast and contributions from a distinguished group of behind-the-scenes members of the creative team. Sperling directed Lady in 2001 and has long taken a strong interest in the show, looking for an opportunity to put it on with his dream lead, Tony Award winner Victoria Clark (above right) in the role of troubled fashion magazine editor Liza Elliott. That time is now. Clark heads a cast of seasoned Broadway stars: Tony Nominees Montego Glover, Ashley Park, and Ron Raines; Ben Davis, Christopher Innvar, and David Pittu; and Golden Globe Award and Academy Award Nominee Amy Irving.
It doesn’t stop there, as Sperling and his team have lined up a remarkable group of fashion designers chosen by Vogue editor Hamish Bowles to create the look of Liza’s dreams: Zac Posen (Glamour Dream), Carolina Herrera (Wedding Dream), and Thom Browne (Circus Dream). They are working with costume designer Tracy Christensen. Her associates James Ingalls (lighting design) and Scott Lehrer (sound design) are also on board; the scenic designer’s role is filled by Doug Fitch. Doug Varone choreographs and leads his troupe of dancers. It all adds up to a scintillating, fascinating production.
MasterVoices has taken up Weill’s large-scale works several times before: The Firebrand of Florence (2009), Knickerbocker Holiday (2011), and The Road of Promise (U.S. premiere, 2015). CD recordings of the last two are still available from Ghostlight and Navona Records, respectively. Lady in the Dark has not been seen in New York since Encores! presented it during its first season in 1994. Much has changed since then, but good theater is still good theater, and all the omens are favorable for the MasterVoices production at City Center, so much so that they have added a third performance on Saturday, 27 April to the original schedule. Watch this space for further developments before and after the opening.
Video feature on NBC’s “New York Live”
MasterVoices promotional video
MasterVoices press release
Program notes by Ted Sperling
Learn more about Lady in the Dark