Kurt Weill in America

92nd Street “Y” Lyrics and Lyricists, opens the 2005-2006 season with “Kurt Weill in America”. Andrea Marcovicci, Artistic Director. Shelly markham, Music Director and Piano. Anna Bergamn, Klea Blackhurst, Barbara Brussell, Mark Coffin, Chuck Cooper, Jeff Harnar and Maude Maggart. Saturday Nov. 12, at 8pm. Seats $55 and $45. Sunday Nov. 13 at 3pm and at 8pm. Seats $55 and $45 and Monday, Nov. 14 at 3pm and 8pm, with seats $55 and $45. The tribute to Kurt Weill (1990-1950) and the American lyricists who collaborated with him. Suscription to the entire series are available. For tickets: www.92Y.org/Lyrics or 212-415-5500.

Before Kurt Weill fled Nazi Germany for Paris in March, 1993, he had compsed a dozen works for the musical theater. Early in his career, Weill said “I need poetry to set my imagination in motion,” and he established a lifelong habit of collaborating with only the most talented lyricists. In Germany his tow most famous partners were the playwrights Georg Kaiser and Bertolt Brecht. In America, he teamed up with great American lyricists and poets like Alan Jay Lerner, Ira Gershwin, Ogden Nash, Langston Hughes, and Maxwell Anderson. In the L&L show, Andrea Marcovicci follows the musical life of Kurt Weill in America to explore the work of several influential American lyricists in context of their work with this singular composer. The songs–sweeping romatic melodies, jaunty comic tunes and stately anthems,–reveal how Weill’s music influenced his lyricist-collaborators. But they also show Weill himself adapting to his new country, absorbing influences from his American colleagues and enjoying the newfound artistic freedom that America offered.

Weill collaborated with giants of American song like Ira Gershwin, as in the Broadway operetta The Firebrand of Florence (1944) and The Lady in the Dark (1940). He worked with Alan Jay Lerner on the relatively obscrue 1948 Broadway vaudeville show Love Life which features the same characteristic wit and whimsy as Lerner’s best-known work, My Fair Lady.

But Weill also worked with lyricists who were primarily playwrights and poets–writers who worked as lyricists only in their collaborations with Kurt Weill. Pulitzer prize winning North Carolina playwright Paul Green (1894-1981), who was known for his portrayal of Southern American folk life, was Weill’s first American collaboratr; the project was Johnny Johnson (1936), the offbeat story of a peace-loving soldier in World War I. With playwright and sometime lyricist Maxwell Anderson (1888-1959), Weill wrote Knickerbocker Holiday (1938), which starred Walter Huston in the Broadway production and featured the hit songs “It Never Was You” and “September Song”. (Anderson wrote both narrative plays and verse dramas, including Winterset, which won the 1935 New York Drama Critics Circle Award.) Anderson and Weill also started work on a musical version of Huckleberry Finn, but weill completed only five songs before his death in 1950. These songs were performed in public for the first time at the 92nd Street Y under the direction of L&L founder Maurice Levine, in a Kurt Weill tribute concert on March 2, 1952. The great American poety Langston Hughes (1902-1967) wrote the lyrics–with Elmer Rice— for Weill’s 1947 opera Street Scene, which was based on Rice’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play. Another great American poety and journalist, Ogden Nash (1902-1971), collaborated with Weill to write lyrics to the 1943 Broadway hit, One Touch of Venus.

Music director and pianist Shelly Markham is an arranger, music director, pianist and longtime colleague of Andrea Marcovicci. He produced four recordings for Marcovicci, including her latest featuring the songs of Fred Astaire. He arranged and conducted her Cole Porter evening, which toured nationally and was produced at the Liceu Opera House in Barcelona. The current off-Broadway show Naked Boys Singing features Markham’s songs, and his latest show, Too Old for the Chorus is currently playing at San Diego’s Theater in Old Town. He has worked with leading Broadway and cabaret performers and has enjoyed a long and successful collaboration as a composer with poet and author Judith Viorst (Love and Shrimp; Alexander & The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day; and Alexander Who’s Not Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move).