sign up button


Two on the Street

Collaborators Stage a Scene Aimed at Explaining Their Musical Play

by Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner
Composer and Librettist, respectively, of "Love Life"

Source: New York Times, October 3, 1948

SCENE: In front of Shubert Theatre, Boston. Lerner and Weill are standing breathing in the morning air. A man comes by and stares at the theatre marquee.
MAN: Pardon me. Do either of you know anything about this show?
LERNER: Yes, we saw it in New Haven.
MAN: What is it? I am a little confused. It says here on the sign it's a vaudeville.
WEILL: That's right, it is.
MAN: You mean it has vaudeville acts?
WEILL: Lots of them.
MAN: That's fine. Then I don't have to worry about following a plot. That's a relief.
LERNER: No. There's a plot.
MAN: I thought you said it was a vaudeville.
LERNER: It's a vaudeville with a plot.
MAN: How does that work?
WEILL: Well, the sketches and the vaudeville acts have a continuity and supplement each other.
MAN: (Scratching his head) Did you understand?
WEILL: I did.
LERNER: So did I.
MAN: Well, I guess it must be a very simple story.
WEILL: It is. It not only tells the saga of 150 years of American home life but also the love life of two people and the gradual changing of their personalities as life becomes more complex.
LERNER: Not to mention the disintegration of their home until divorce separates them.
WEILL: You see, it's very simple.
MAN: What holds it together?
LERNER: Vaudeville.
MAN: Vaudeville?
WEILL: Why not? If you want to tell an American story, isn't that the most typical form of American theatre?
MAN: I suppose so.
LERNER: After the minstrel show, it certainly is the most native form.
WEILL: Isn't that true?
MAN: (His brow tightening) I suppose so.
WEILL: Is it all clear now?
MAN: No. Let me ask you something else. If the play goes over a 150 [sic] years, in what generation does [sic] Nanette Fabray and Ray Middleton appear?
LERNER: In all of them.
MAN: You mean they live 150 years?
WEILL: That's right. And not only that, they don't grow any older.
MAN: But how is that possible?
LERNER: With vaudeville.
WEILL: Isn't that simple?
MAN: (Wiping his forehead) I don't know. Is it like a lot of little plays strung together?
WEILL: Not exactly. One sketch is a musical play, one is an American ballad, one is a straight comedy, one is satire, one is danced, one is musical comedy, one is dramatic. All different styles.
MAN: How do they all fit together?
LERNER: With vaudeville.
WEILL: Isn't that simple?
MAN: No. You mean it all has a form?
WEILL: Yes, in a formless way.
LERNER: That gives it a very real form.
MAN: Now, look. Wait just a minute. You say that there's a lot of vaudeville in the show. Is there a comedian?
LERNER: No. But there is a lot of comedy.
MAN: Is there a crooner?
WEILL: No. But there are a lot of songs the crooners will sing.
MAN: But no crooners? That's a promise?
LERNER: It's a guarantee. You see, singing is an integral part of the development of the nation. As the plot of the play progresses by way of words and scenes, the music, too, progresses through the ages, so that, at the beginning, there are tunes reminiscent of the folksy home life.
MAN: Dances, too, the square dance, etcetera?
LERNER: Yes, dances, too. Songs and dances. Which change with the mood of the play, from the simplicity of 150 years ago, through the frenzy of the prohibition era and on into the frenetic and zany torchiness of today.
WEILL: Isn't that simple?
MAN: (Looking around wildly for a road to escape). I suppose so. But, anyway, there are no comics and no crooners but there IS vaudeville.
LERNER: That's right.
MAN: For instance?
LERNER: There's a magician.
WEILL: And a trapeze artist.
LERNER: And a male quartet.
WEILL: And a female trio.
MAN: And all this has a plot?
WEILL: That's right.
MAN: And it is easy to follow?
WEILL: It was for us.
MAN: This I've got to see! (He walks to the window to buy a seat. Lerner and Weill shake hands and walk down the street.)