The hit musical Lady in the Dark, created by Broadway legends Ira Gershwin, Moss Hart, and Kurt Weill, is now encapsulated in an educational video with charming interviews and performances by Julie Andrews, Victoria Clark, Judy Garland, and Ted Sperling
"One Life to Live"
Excerpt sung by Gertrude Lawrence, 1941
Performed by Danny Kaye for the television broadcast Musical Comedy Tonight, 1979
"The Saga of Jenny"
Christine Ebersole as Liza Elliott in the New York City Center Encores! semi-staged concert of Lady in the Dark, 1994
Interview with Ira Gershwin about Weill and Lady in the Dark
Liza (Gertrude Lawrence) on the therapist couch with Dr. Brooks (Richard Hale); Broadway, 1941 | Photo: Florence Vandamm
A scene in Liza's office at Allure magazine: Margaret Dale as Maggie Grant, Danny Kaye as fashion photographer Russell Paxton, and Gertrude Lawrence as fashion editor Liza Elliott; Broadway, 1941
The climatic Circus Dream with Danny Kaye, right, as the Ringmaster, and Gertrude Lawrence (Liza Elliott) and Victor Mature (Randy Curtis) on the left; Broadway, 1941
Souvenir program cover from the Broadway production, 1941
The Glamour Dream: By decree of the President of the United States, a Marine (Macdonald Carey) paints Liza's portrait for a new 2-cent postage stamp while the chorus sings "Girl of the Moment"; Broadway, 1941
Gertrude Lawrence (Liza) and Victor Mature (Randy Curtis) in the Circus Dream; Broadway, 1941
Poster from the return to Broadway in 1943
Christine Ebersole as Liza in the New York City Center Encores! semi-staged concert, 1994
Maria Friedman as Liza in the National Theatre London production, 1997 | Photo: Geraint Lewis
Tina May as Liza with cast in the Glamour Dream; Opera de Lyon, 2008
Winnie Böwe as Liza with cast in the Wedding Dream; Staatsoper Hannover, 2011
Daniel Drewes as Russell Paxton; Staatsoper Hannover, 2011
Victoria Clark stars as Liza Elliott who receives psychoanalysis for unexplained panic attacks in the MasterVoices production of Lady in the Dark; New York City Center Encores!, 2019 | Photo: Mike Gerard
The Glamour Dream with Victoria Clark as Liza Elliott in a gown by Zac Posen; MasterVoices at New York City Center Encores!, 2019 | Photo: Richard Termine
Victoria Clark (Liza) sings "The Saga of Jenny" in the Circus Dream; MasterVoices at New York City Center Encores!, 2019 | Photo: Richard Termine
by Mark N. Grant
New York, ca. 1940. Fashion magazine editor Liza Elliott has suffered from unexplained panic attacks and depression for months. Despite misgivings, she visits a psychoanalyst. As Liza–dressed primly and without makeup–stretches out on the couch, she hears the melody of a children’s song (“My Ship”) that has been haunting her.
Suddenly we are swept into the through-sung Glamour Dream, featuring characters from Liza’s office. Twelve tuxedoed swains serenade Liza, now in evening attire, as the most glamorous woman in the world (), while her maid can’t keep up with all the invitations from the glitterati (). Her chauffeur Beekman whisks her to a swanky nightclub; at Columbus Circle she stops to address the crowd (). At the club, she is showered with admiration (). A U.S. Marine, as directed by the President, paints her portrait for a new postage stamp. But when he unveils it, it is a picture of the prim, businesslike Liza. She screams and awakens suddenly on Dr. Brooks’s couch. He points out the paradox that Liza rejects glamor for herself, yet makes her living promoting glamor for other women.
In Liza’s office at Allure magazine, photographer Russell Paxton is organizing a fashion shoot with movie star Randy Curtis while advertising manager Charley Johnson, whom Liza cordially detests, banters impudently with her. Enter Allure‘s publisher, Kendall Nesbitt, Liza’s long-time boyfriend (he is married to another woman), who announces that he is getting a divorce. He is alarmed by Liza’s panicked reaction. Randy asks Liza to dinner the following night. She absent-mindedly accepts, but, still shaken, retreats to her private office and begins to hum the tune again.
Suddenly the Wedding Dream takes over the stage. Liza’s fellow high-school graduates recall her as she was in school (). Her fiancé Kendall takes Liza to buy a wedding ring from Charley. But the ring is a dagger and Liza recoils. Now Randy emerges as a mythic figure from history to court the enraptured Liza (). Charley and Randy take turns dancing with Liza, whereupon the children’s tune comes back, reminding Liza of a school play from her childhood (). Liza’s office desk momentarily reappears but then morphs into a church for Liza’s wedding day. Charley, now a minister, asks if anyone knows why Kendall and Liza should not be married. The chorus says that Liza does not love Kendall; Liza insists she does, and there the dream ends.
Liza returns to Dr. Brooks. After a contentious session, Dr. Brooks suggests that she is refusing to compete for men with other women, and she storms out, breaking off the therapy. At her office, Kendall presses her, but she still refuses to marry him. Charley suggests to Liza a circus theme for the cover of the Easter issue, but they quarrel again; this time he resigns from the magazine. Randy shows up for their dinner date, and they go out together.
The next day, Liza is still moping in her office, unable to decide on a magazine cover. As she hears imaginary voices chiding her, including those of Kendall, Charley, and Randy, the office suddenly turns into a Circus Dream, with ringmaster Russell and chorus presenting : Liza Elliott’s neuroses. After a , the circus turns into a courtroom, and Liza is charged with being unable to make up her mind. Charley is the prosecutor, Randy the defense attorney, and Kendall the chief witness (). Russell interjects a dizzying catalogue of the names of fifty Russian composers (). Then he calls Liza to the stand. Liza defends herself with the tale of a girl who was too decisive (). But just when she thinks she’s triumphed, the jury hums the mysterious tune and scares her out of her wits.
The dream ends and suddenly Liza is in Dr. Brooks’s office. The Circus Dream has reminded her of the humiliation she felt as a child. A series of flashbacks without music ensues. Liza’s father announces that he’s happy Liza is plain and not beautiful like her mother. A boy refuses to act the prince in a grade school play if Liza is the princess. When she is ten Liza’s mother dies, but Liza does not grieve. A handsome boy asks her out, and at last she recalls in its entirety the tune which has been haunting her (); then she learns he has chosen another girl. With Dr. Brooks’s help, Liza begins to find the roots of her unhappiness in her childhood traumas.
A week later, a much calmer Liza arrives in her office. Charley, who has already given notice, surprises Liza by asking her out to dinner. Kendall appears and tells Liza he accepts her decision to leave him. Randy enters and proposes to Liza, but she is too stunned to respond. Charley returns to tell her he will not apologize for his insults. To his surprise, she asks him to stay on at Allure as co-editor–and hints at romance as well. Liza begins humming “My Ship” and Charley cheerfully joins in. Curtain.
Oh Fabulous One
One Life to Live
The Girl of the Moment
Mapleton High Chorale
This is New
The Princess of Pure Delight
The Greatest Show on Earth
Dance of the Tumblers
The Best Years of His Life
The Saga of Jenny
Liza Elliott (soprano)
Miss Foster, as Sutton in Dream 1 (mezzo-soprano)
Russell Paxton, as Beekman in Dream 1, as Ringmaster in Dream 3 (baritone)
Kendall Nesbitt, as Pierre in Dream 1, as Witness in Dream 3
Charley Johnson, as Marine in Dream 1, as Jewelry Salesman/Minister in Dream 2, as Prosecuting Attorney in Dream 3 (baritone)
Randy Curtis, as Defense Attorney in Dream 3 (baritone)
"Uses the resources of the theater magnificently and tells a compassionate story triumphantly. . . . The finest score written for the theatre in years . . . Gershwin's lyrics are brilliant. A feast of plenty . . . a work of theater art."
The New York Times, 1941
"A high point in the history of the American musical stage. It proves that a musical show can be both engrossing and magnificently entertaining without sacrificing high imagination, acute intelligence, superbly unified and thoroughly artistic production, and an underlying seriousness of purpose."
Chicago Daily Tribune, 1943
"Though Lady in the Dark certainly is far more commercial entertainment than Threepenny, it is no less probing . . . . The subject--psychoanalysis--remains timely . . . . If you didn't know better, you might think the show had been written with the modern yuppie in mind."
Chicago Tribune, 1989
"A witty book by Moss Hart, delicious lyrics by Ira Gershwin and a gorgeous score by Kurt Weill."
New York Daily News, 1994
"It comes as a delightful shock to discover what a convincing musical play--complete with song and dance--Moss Hart, Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill made almost 60 years ago out of Freudian psychotherapy, dreams and a suitable case for treatment . . . . Lady in the Dark has lost none of its satirical sharpness at the expense of a New York high fashion magazine. 'My Ship' and much of the haunting music goes with a real period lilt. It swoons and smooches, yearns and saunters.”
Evening Standard, 1997
"Weill's music is plangent and sinuous, a remarkable synthesis of Weimar jazz and pre-Sondheim querulousness."
The Observer, 1997
"Lady in the Dark remains fascinating, its score one of the most intriguing of its period, with Gershwin contributing some of the finest stage lyrics, and Weill expanding the vocabulary of Broadway melody via his unique harmonies and rhythms."
In Theatre, 1998
"The overwhelming effect of Lady in the Dark, still, 60 years later, is of startling originality."
Boston Globe, 2000
"In its scope and complexity of invention the score stands as one of the half-dozen finest ever composed for Broadway. No wonder Stravinsky admired it and Copland envied it. Lady has great tunes, snappy numbers, and hit songs, but it also burrows deep."
Boston Globe, 2000
"Its primal work-versus-love scenario is timeless. As are Weill's haunting music and Gershwin's witty lyrics."
Philadelphia Inquirer, 2001
"Moss Hart's wry, playful, intelligent book, Ira Gershwin's wittily sophisticated lyrics and Kurt Weill's hauntingly gossamer melodies . . . the innovative 1941 Broadway hit is a multifaceted gem."
San Francisco Chronicle, 2001
"One is astounded at how exactly this work fits our time.... It represents a daring experiment in form and an amalgam of classic Broadway melody, the harmonies of the Berlin Weill, and the emphasis of verismo."
Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2011
"The story is really super--the whole craziness of the Vogue/Mode media world, with a heavy shot of psychoanalysis and burnout on top. It could hardly be more contemporary."
Neue Presse, 2011
"The admittedly ambitious, extravagant Lady in the Dark has become the musical of the moment. . . . We hope this intelligent and sparkling Weill jewel will soon be seen in other productions."