A musical in 2 acts. Music by Kurt Weill. Book by Alfred Uhry. Suggested by the letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya
Originally produced by the Manhatten Theatre Club at the Biltmore Theatre, 12 April, 2007
We are in limbo. Two figures emerge. Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya. He is stolid, refined. She is a force of nature. Timeless and together. they sing and suddenly, we are transported back to Lake Peetz, Germany, 1924 - the site of Weill and Lenya's first meeting. The young composer waits at the dock as Lenya. a maid/aspiring actress approaches in a rowing boat. Their attraction is instant, their sense of intimacy immediate. Lenya recalls her days as a girl of the streets in Vienna. Weill confesses his all-consuming passion for music and his traditional Jewish upbringing. By the time they have crossed the lake. Weill is smitten. Lenya is reluctant. "Don't expect much she warns seductively. "I'm not so good with nice boys."
Its not long before Lenya pays a visit to Weill's humble flat ("The shrine where Herr Genius creates"). In an effort to impress. Weill plays an extremely experimental new composition for her. Lenya's response ("I don't know anything about music") doesn't go over too well with him. After all. Weill does not write "popular ditties he intends to work with Bertolt Brecht, the greatest poet alive. Meanwhile. Lenya offers to bring Weill some cactus plants to cheer up the place. She also offers to move in with him.
Outside, beneath a beautifully lit Berlin sky, Lenya sings an ode to her city. This takes us to one year later. Weill's flat exudes Lenya's personality (i.e. cactus plants). One night. Lenya comes home late and Weill confronts her. He is tired of her all too frequent indiscretions and wants her to change. Lenya is defiant. "I stay who I am." she asserts. Weill softens. "Let me be good to you he pleads, "endlessly good." And she does. And after less than a year they get married.
Enter Brecht. Arrogant, intelligent, bristling with sexuality. Brecht is followed everywhere by his posse of three women. Together, they detail the ribaldry of their sordid lives. Weill shows up and convinces a stubborn Brecht to let him put some of his poems to music.
Pretty soon, our newfound collaborators are themselves running auditions for their latest show. Lenya pays a surprise visit and gives the audition of a lifetime. Not only does she get the part, but she earns Brecht's respect.
One year later the trio find fame and fortune with The Threepenny Opera. Lenya is the toast of the town. They are moving on up. Lenya throws a lavish housewarming party for all of their friends, where a belligerent Brecht leads everyone in celebration.
January, 1933. As the socio-political climate worsens. Weill and Brecht perform a satirical vaudevillian duet about Hitler's Jewish upbringing. Concerned for his safety, Weill rushes to Lenya's dressing room in the middle of a performance and tells her that they have to flee Germany. Lenya has another idea: Divorce. She persuades Weill to grant her a divorce and sign everything over to her. Lenya's "friend" Otto has generously offered to help her manage their finances in this chaotic time.
Weill heads to Paris to work on the Seven Deadly Sins, while Lenya plays Juliet in Dusseldorf. Though they are miles apart, the two ex-lovers maintain a lively correspondence. Lenya informs Weill that the divorce went through and also, that she and Otto are planning to have a baby.
But soon enough, they are re-united at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Lenya has bad news: Otto has departed with all of their money. And another thing: there is no baby. But Weill is surprisingly forgiving. He tells Lenya that he's doing a show in New York. And he wants her to go with him. As they lay in bed together, the two fantasise about life on the Great White Way.
Lenya and Weill join Brecht and the rest of the Company aboard the SS Majestic. As the moon looms overhead, America beckons in the distance. The future has arrived.
After mistakenly arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey instead of Manhattan, Lenya and Weill are overwhelmed by their new surroundings. Not to worry, Weill explains that the way to become a true American is to become wealthy. Their first stop is a courthouse, where a sympathetic judge simultaneously grants them citizenship and re-marries them.
1940. Four years later. Weill has had some success on Broadway and is being photographed for a feature article by Harper's Bazaar. At the shoot. Lenya and Weill encounter editor George Davis. A savage wit and flamboyant bon vivant, Davis takes a keen interest in the couple, especially Lenya. When he learns that she is frustrated with her job prospects in the U.S., he arranges for her to perform at the prestigious Reuben Bleu Nightclub.
Weill heads to California for some work in Hollywood. While he's there, he pays a visit to his old pal Brecht. Obnoxious as ever, Brecht demands to be paid royalties for every time Lenya performs one of his songs. When Weill protests, Brecht threatens to sue. After all, "That's the American Way."
We jump ahead to 1944. America is at war and Weill is doing his part by writing a song for the bond drive. Backstage afterwards, a jealous Weill witnesses Lenya flirting with dreamboat actor Allen Lake. As he watches jealously. Weill begins to compose a new song.
At their home in New City, Lenya and Weill are paid a surprise visit by Brecht. He is taken aback by their lavish lifestyle and chastises their selling out to the perils of capitalism. Brecht explains to Weill that he wants to do a revival of Threepenny. But Weill isn't interested. Aside from the fact that anything German would be a "dead dodo" on Broadway. he's already working on a new project (The Firebrand of Florence) with Ira Gershwin. Brecht is irate. "You would be giving piano lessons if it weren't for me he barks. And then, ever so politely. Weill asks Brecht to get the hell out of his house.
With the failure of Firebrand of Florence, Weill heads off to California to earn some much needed easy film money. Alone in her dressing room, Davis confides to Lenya that Weill has been spending a great deal of time in California. Perhaps he's got a compelling reason to be there …
As they did when they were separated before. Weill and Lenya keep up an active correspondence from New York to L.A. They also find themselves in the middle of a fantasy/nightmare marriage sequence à la Lady In The Dark with George Davis serving as emcee.
It is now 1950. Lenya confronts Weill about his goings on in California. He confesses to having had an affair for the past six years. "I need her he confides. "You will get over it." Lenya offers, "I always do." But Weill has no intention of doing so. After all, this woman touches him where the music happens. And the music always comes first. Weill packs his bags and says goodbye to Lenya for the last time. And just like that, he is gone. To denote Weill's passing the Company gathers in the shadows on stage and sings a stirring ode.
Lenya is devastated, not to mention filled with remorse. Davis visits her and tells her that he has already booked several engagements for her. And he also tries to talk to her about a film career. When Lenya scoffs at the notion, Davis points out that she could do worse. "I have done worse. Many times she quips. "I am a genius at picking lemons." The two compare notes on the various men in their respective lives. Davis believes that he and Lenya are good for each other. "We can love each other in our own way he explains. As the song ends, a new kind of partnership has formed between the two of them.
Suddenly, we are backstage at the Theatre De Lys. The year is 1954 and Lenya, in her Pirate Jenny costume, is putting the finishing touches on her make-up for opening night of the Threepenny Revival. She is nervous and reluctant. But Davis is there. "No one feels his music the way you do he urges. "you have to do it for the music." Lenya takes it all in. After a long moment. she smiles. "Okeydoke." she exclaims.
And with that, Lenya takes her place centre stage, and delivers her most famous line: "Look, there goes Mac the Knife". It is a bittersweet end to Lenya and Weill's love story, but it also marks a beginning of sorts for Lenya's own career. As Lenya fades away into time and space, a vivid memory echoing in the distance, the curtain falls.
- Kurt Weill
- Lotte Lenya
- Bertolt Brecht
- George Davis
- Woman On Stairs
- Brecht's Woman
- Allen Lake
- Court Secretary
Piano; violin; viola; ‘cello; trumpet; clarinet I, II; flute; saxophone I, II; bassoon; bass; drums/percussion/mallots
- Speak Low (lyrics by Ogden Nash) - Weill, Lenya
- Nanna’s Lied (lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) - Woman on Stairs.
- Kiddush - Weill's Family
- Song of the Rhineland (lyrics by Ira Gershwin) - Lenya's Family -
- Klops Lied (Meatball Song) - Weill
- Berlin im Licht (lyrics by Kurt Weill) – Lenya
- Tango Ballad (lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) - Brecht, Brecht's Women
- Alabama Song (lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) - Auditioners. Lenya Kurt
- Girl of the Moment (lyrics by Ira Gershwin) - Ensemble
- Moritat (lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) - Brecht, Lenya, Otto. Ensemble
- Schickelgruber (lyrics by Howard Dietz) - Weill, Brecht
- I Don't Love You (lyrics by Maurice Magre) - Weill, Lenya
- Wouldn't You Like To Be On Broadway? (lyrics by Langston Hughes & Elmer Rice) - Weill, Lenya
- Alabama Song, (Reprise) (lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) - Lenya, Weill, Brecht, Ensemble
- Very, Very, Very (lyrics by Ogden Nash) -Weill
- It's Never Too Late To Mendelssohn (lyrics by Ira Gershwin) - Weill, Lenya, Stenographer. Judge
- Surabaya Johnny (lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) - Lenya
- Buddy On the Night Shift (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)- Allen
- That's Him (lyrics by Ogden Nash) - Weill
- Hosannah Rockefeller (lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) - Brecht, Brecht's Women
- I Don't Love You, (Reprise) (lyrics by Maurice Magre) - Lenya, Weill
- The Illusion Wedding Show (lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner) - Davis, Ensemble
- It Never Was You (lyrics by Maxwell Anderson) - Weill
- A Bird Of Passage (lyrics by Maxwell Anderson) - Weill
- September Song (lyrics by Maxwell Anderson) - Lenya. Davis