Plymouth Music Series'
" Lady in the Dark"
Minneapolis Star-Tribune - October 15, 2001
Michael Anthony, October
Asked why we're so interested these days in vintage Broadway musicals, Pop the kindly old stage manager would probably say, "Harrumph! It's because the new ones aren't any good." Pop's got a point. But there's another reason. We have nearly a century of popular musical theater to look back on now, a huge body of repertoire spotlighted by several dozen classics that still engage and entertain, and one of those is surely "Lady in the Dark," the show with music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and book by Moss Hart that way back in 1941 made psychoanalysis a fit subject for the musical stage.
Plymouth Music Series presented the show as its season- opener Saturday night at Orchestra Hall in a lively concert staging by Vern Sutton, who also played several key roles. While one might argue that Plymouth's chorus of 100 or so voices is too big to provide an authentic Broadway sound, conductor Philip Brunelle did use Weill's original orchestration with its wonderfully blaring saxophones, and the proud hoofers of JazzDance, the local dance troupe headed by Danny Buraczewski, injected a whimsical '40s aura to the dream sequences, the little one-act operas that form the heart of Weill's innovative score.
In the role created by Gertrude Lawrence, Connie Evingson looked terrific as our heroine Liza Elliott: chic, sophisticated and possessed of what tap dancers used to call "6 o'clock legs," meaning flawless. And a little repressed, as Liza needs to be. The brilliant editor of a fashion magazine, Liza's unhappy and can't make up her mind, so she goes to a psychiatrist (played in a nicely clinical tone by Tim Russell). Evingson gave us a real character, though it needed more push in a couple of scenes, and her singing voice has just the right cool but insinuating tone for songs such as "My Ship" and "The Saga of Jenny," the tale of a woman "who couldn't say no in 27 languages."
The cast was strong. Sutton delivered the most famous of patter songs, "Tchaikovsky" with exuberant clarity -- 39 seconds in the reprise, thereby matching Danny Kaye's timing, according to Gershwin's memoirs. Keith Rice, a properly handsome Randy Curtis, sang a rich-toned "This Is New." James Bohn was a suave Kendall Nesbitt, James McKeel a strong Charlie Johnson, and a bunch of small female roles were filled out amusingly by Janet Hanson and Linda Zelig. To repeat a reflection from two years ago, after Plymouth's equally fine production of "Of Thee I Sing," what a pity this was just a one- nighter. If Brunelle and Plymouth want to keep doing vintage musicals -- and what a nice idea that is -- they need to move them to a theater and playthem for at least a weekend in a venue that wouldn't need miking. Face microphones are a hindrance in a drama and give a directionless unreality to the voices.
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