Lost In the Stars
a musical drama in two acts. Book and Lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Based on Alan Paton's novel, 'Cry, The Beloved Country'.
Music by Kurt Weill.
First produced at the Music Box Theatre, New York, 30 October 1949 with Todd Duncan (Stephen), Warren Coleman (John Kumalo) and Leslie Banks (James Jarvis) . Closed 1 July, 1949 (281 perfs)
Lost In The Stars was Kurt Weill's last score for Broadway. He personally considered it to be an opera and the critics agreed with him - it was performed by the New York City Opera in 1958. Set in South Africa, it tells the story of Absalom, the son of a Negro teacher, who is driven to the murder of a white man in a desperate bid to provide for his wife and child. Arrested and condemned to hang he is visited by his father, who departs in despair. Before his son is executed, the murdered man's father comes to the preacher to offer compassion and understanding instead of hatred and retaliation. The powerful score includes "Who'll Buy?", "Trouble Man" and the title song.
It is August 1949, not long after the coming to power of the Nationalist Party in South Africa. The scene is set, geographically and socially, by the chorus and their leader (The Hills of Ixopo). In a small Natal village Stephen Kumalo, the black priest of St. Mark's Church, receives a letter from his brother in Johannesburg that their sister there has fallen into bad ways; also, Stephen and his wife Grace have long had no news from their son Absalom who went to the mines in Johannesburg and Grace is anxious that all may not be well with him. Stephen comforts her (Thousands of Miles) but agrees to go to Johannesburg. At the railway station, he is greeted warmly by Arthur Jarvis, whose father, a neighbouring British planter, is affronted by his son's familiarity with a black, but they agree to differ, and the Train to Johannesburg takes Arthur, his schoolboy son Edward and Stephen away.
In the big city, Stephen has found his sister; she will not return to Ndotsheni, but entrusts her little son Alex to him. His meeting with brother John, a shop owner and black political activist, is tense; Stephen learns that his son and John's have been associating and that John has thrown them out, but at least he gives Stephen an address to find Absalom. He is shunted from one place to another, finally discovering that Absalom was in jail, but is now out on parole. In the shabby lodging-house with Alex, he describes his home in Ndotsheni (The Little Grey House).
In a dive in Shanty-Town, Absalom's cronies and their girl-friends parody the injustice of a court hearing (Who'll Buy?) and then the men plot a robbery to get money to go to the new gold fields. Absalom's girl-friend Irina, who is pregnant by him, persuades him to stay out of it, but the men, returning, convince him. Stephen comes to her hut with Eland, the parole officer, and once he is sure she really loves Absalom, promises to help find him. She sings of her love for Trouble Man.
The break-in is, by cruel irony, in Arthur Jarvis' house, and it is he who is shot dead by Absalom, son of his friend Stephen. In the next scene, Jarvis' father, desperate with grief, hears from the parole officer of his son's noble efforts on behalf of racial equality. Stephen, called by Eland, visits Absalom in jail; when the boy confesses the murder, Stephen has to face the fact that his son will never come home again, and that he will have to break the news to his wife, and the culmination of these events brings a conflict in faith (Lost in the Stars).
John Kumalo tries to persuade Stephen to get Absalom to retract his confession and plead not guilty, and Stephen faces his moral dilemma (O Tixo, Tixo, Help Me!); he goes to Jarvis to plead for intercession, but without success, and then to the devoted Irina (Stay Well), who agrees to Absalom's wish that they be married in prison. At the trial, Absalom's two accomplices lie, but he admits his guilt and repentance, and is sentenced to death. The chorus laments Cry, the Beloved Country before the moving marriage ceremony, conducted by Stephen, and after Absalom's outcry of fear and desolation.
Back in Ndotsheni, Alex makes friends with Edward Jarvis, whose grandfather forbids him to play with the black boy. In his own small church, Stephen tells the congregation he is leaving, because his son's crime against the village's only white friend has caused him to question his faith. They beg him not to go, but his agony is only solved in the touching final scene, at the moment at which Absalom's execution takes place far away, when James Jarvis comes to seek reconciliation.
- Rev. Stephen Kumalo - A deeply devout black country priest, convinced of the equality of all men, but seemingly acquiescent in the social order of his country. Tolerance and forbearance only desert him at the very end. (Baritone)
- Grace Kumalo - His wife. (Speaking role)
- Absalom Kumalo - Their son; led astray in the big city and guilty of murder, he shows repentance, and love for his unborn child by insisting on marrying his girl although in prison. (Speaking role)
- John Kumalo - Stephen's worldly and self-centred brother; political activist. (Speaking role)
- James Jarvis - A typical White-supremacy Englishman of about 55, whose feelings are part habit and part deep conviction. (Speaking role)
- Arthur Jarvis - His son, who lives in Johannesburg and has very liberal views, which are a constant source of friction with his father. (Speaking role)
- Edward Jarvis - Arthur's young son, to whom friendship with a black of his own age appears quite natural. (Speaking role)
- Paulus and William - Political associates of John Kumalo. (Speaking roles)
- Mark Eland - A young white parole officer. Also of liberal views, he does what he can under unpromising political conditions. (Speaking role)
- Matthew Kumalo and Johannes Pafuri - Absalom's associates in the robbery, who lie to save themselves. Matthew is John's son. (Speaking roles)
- Rose - Matthew's girl-friend. (Speaking role)
- Linda - Johannes' girl-friend. (Singer/dancer)
- Irina - Absalom's girl, mother-to-be of his child; she is completely devoted to him and though there have been men in her life previously, her loyalty to Absalom does not waver. (Mezzo-soprano)
- Alex - Small son of Stephen's 'fallen' sister Gertrude. (Treble)
- Small parts (all singing roles): Nita, Stationmaster, Jared, Foreman, Mrs. Mkize, Hlabeni, Servant, Policeman, The Guard, Burton, Judge, Macrae, Villager, Young Man & Woman, White Man & Woman; Parishioners, Chorus (with Leader and Answerer).
9 men, 2 women, 1 boy, chorus
Reed I (flute, clarinet, alto sax), Reed II (oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, tenor sax), Reed III (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax), trumpet, 2 percussion, harp, piano db. accordion, strings
Original Broadway Cast Recording - MCA - MCAD-10302