Friday, May 04, 2007
Did Critics LoveMusik?
On paper (or on a Web site), it at least looks good, with a musical love story built around Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, direction by Hal Prince, a book by Alfred Uhry, and a stellar cast including Michael Cerveris, Donna Murphy and David Pittu. Did the critics think it all added up to beautiful music, worthy of the award nominations it's already garnered?
Look no further than New York Post's Clive Barnes, who opines in his three-star review: "If, in the remarkable -- no, sensational -- hands of both Donna Murphy as Lenya and Michael Cerveris as Weill, the music comes off more convincingly than the love, that was ultimately the story of their lives....The book is frankly clunky. But time and time again it is luckily resuscitated by the music and the altogether remarkable performances from the whole cast under Harold Prince's inspired direction."
Calling it a "daring new musical," Newday's Linda Winer is mostly positive: "The show has its problems, some inherent in the range of Weill's music, and a few that seem to be almost willfully wrong-headed choices by director Harold Prince and author Alfred Uhry. But its strengths -- especially the courageous, ruggedly brilliant performances by Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy -- are far more haunting than the flaws are troubling."
The first review posted before last night's performance even began came from Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press, who in calling the production "uneven yet fascinating" goes on to say: "[T]he production -- much of it based on letters between Weill and Lenya -- still feels unfinished and uncertain....Cerveris and Murphy dominate. Both have undergone startling physical transformations and both are flawless in their Teutonic accents -- which does make the English lyrics a little more difficult to understand....Prince presents the show as if it were a revue, a series of sketches depicting the lives of these unique people. There is a mock proscenium within the real proscenium of the Biltmore to underscore the artificiality of the storytelling."
Offering a surprising assessment that LoveMusik "is sluggish, tedious and (hold your breath) unmissable," The New York Times' Ben Brantley notes: "Donna Murphy and Michael Cerveris turn in stunningly shaded performances that hold their own in a season notable for its surprisingly high standard of celebrity character studies....How you wish, though, that they weren’t trapped in the struggle between Alfred Uhry’s conventionally sentimental book and Mr. Prince’s self-consciously jaded staging."
Calling it "ambitious but schizophrenic," Eric Grode of The New York Sun laments: "LoveMusik comes tantalizingly close to explaining how the son of a cantor and a former child prostitute formed one of the 20th century's most curious romances. Ironically, though, the project is foiled by the very thing that made it so tempting in the first place -- Weill's own versatility....This embarrassment of lyrical riches stymies Messrs. Prince and Uhry, who are left with a stylistic smorgasbord that continuously wriggles free of any unified tone and leaves the complexities of the Weill-Lenya relationship unexplored."
All these reviews would seem to suggest that the nominations the show has already received were deserved. Whether or not audiences will gravitate toward this unusual musical remains to be seen.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here for tickets.