Two fateful meetings in November 1939 between Kurt Weill and Moss Hart led inexorably to a new kind of Broadway musical, the brainchild of three Broadway legends (lyricist Ira Gershwin was the third) put on stage by an even more imposing roster of talent–the opening-night cast included Gertrude Lawrence, Danny Kaye, Victor Mature, Bert Lytell, Natalie Schaefer, and MacDonald Carey–from producer Sam Harris on down. The new show, entirely innovative both in form and subject matter, used psychoanalysis as the primary plot driver and staged the protagonist’s spectacular dreams as one-act operas, giving audiences glimpses of the glamorous worlds of fashion and publishing as well as the intimacies of a psychiatrist’s office. Lady in the Dark landed like a bombshell on Broadway in January 1941. Now, for the first time since then, producers and directors can recreate the magic from this new critical edition of the score, book, and lyrics. Through patient and thorough examination of a wealth of archival and other unpublished sources, the editors present a version of the show very close to what hit the boards in 1941.
The libretto (Random House) and vocal score (Chappell) were published at the time, but neither one hewed very closely to the stage script. (Hart’s edition of the libretto made no effort to incorporate improvements introduced during rehearsals and tryouts.) Subsequent performing editions stuck with the published version, longer, slower, and less theatrically effective, and the stage script faded from memory, gradually drifted over by the sands of Broadway history. Editors bruce d. mcclung and Elmar Juchem have brought it back in an edition complete with cut numbers and musical alternatives, reconstructed both from interviews with the original participants and archival sources excavated from repositories in New York and elsewhere. The score presented problems of its own, as the editors had to glean alterations made during rehearsals and the Broadway run from confusing (in some cases, all but indecipherable) instrumental parts. The result: a shorter, tighter show that makes it plain how Lady in the Dark set Broadway on its ear.
We have come to expect extensive research and thoughtful evaluation of source material from the Kurt Weill Edition, as well as attention to detail and beautiful engraving and printing. The new volume delivers, with the score and dialogue (along with cut material and commentary) presented in a generous two-volume format, with a separate Critical Report containing source descriptions and a full record of editorial decisions. In these respects, this new edition is no different from those that have already appeared in the Kurt Weill Edition. But few volumes, in this series or any other, have done so much to reshape our understanding of a Broadway smash, or to give today’s theaters incentive to revisit it.
bruce d. mcclung, Thomas James Kelly Professor of Music at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, is the world’s foremost authority on Lady in the Dark, having published the definitive Lady in the Dark: Biography of a Musical (Oxford, 2007), winner of a Deems Taylor Award and the 2007 Kurt Weill Prize. Elmar Juchem is the Managing Editor of the Kurt Weill Edition and Associate Director for Publications and Research for the Kurt Weill Foundation.
Kurt Weill Edition (Series I, Volume 16): Lady in the Dark, ed. bruce d. mcclung and Elmar Juchem (New York: Kurt Weill Foundation for Music / European American Music Corporation, 2017). Complete Score in Two Volumes: 748 pp.; Critical Report: 137 pp. ISBN: 978-1-62721-901-3. Sales Price: $695 ($475 for subscribers). Order no. KWE 1016.