Exclusive: Symphony Space Presents KURT WEILL ON BROADWAY and First Look at VENUS Cover
The evening will highlight songs from Venus as well as favorites from other Weill shows, including Street Scene, Lady in the Dark, Love Life, Lost in the Stars, Knickerbocker Holiday, The Threepenny Opera, and Happy End.
Ted Chapin hosts a stellar cast featuring Melissa Errico, Brent Barrett, Judy Blazer, and Ron Raines, plus winners of the international Lotte Lenya Competition. The orchestra for the evening is the dynamic young ensemble Le Train Bleu. The conductor and musical director is Weill specialist James Holmes, who flew in from Europe for this event, with additional instrumental numbers conducted by Ransom Wilson; stage direction is by Richard Jay-Alexander. The PSM is James Fry.
Richard Jay-Alexander tells us that "I've been in rehearsal this week with all the performers and Jim Holmes joined us today and it's all pretty exciting. This is my first time delving into Kurt Weill's repertoire and my first time in the newly renovated Symphony Space, which I'm mad for.
It's a great place to work and the people couldn't be nicer. I've worked with some of these actors before and others for the first time, but I've been blown away at meeting Lotte Lenya Compteition winners. They're so fresh and so talented and that always turns me on in terms of working and finding inspiration for staging and approach. The entire first act centerpiece is ONE TOUCH OF VENUS and being reunited with Melissa Errico, who's in tip-top form, has been joyous. When you work, if you're lucky, you also learn and I've been learning a lot about Kurt Weill, my new 'bestie'. I can highly recommend visiting Symphony Space and Kurt Weill ON BROADWAY on Monday night."
Also performing are Richard Todd Adams, Doug Carpenter, Cooper Grodin, Justin Hopkins, Zachary James, Analisa Leaming, Jacob Keith Watson, and Maren Weinberger, all winners of the Lotte Lenya Competition. The Competition is an international contest that bridges the worlds of opera/operetta and Broadway musical theater and recognizes talented young singer/actors who excel dramatically and musically in a wide range of repertoire.
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ONE TOUCH OF VENUS opened on Broadway 7 October 1943 and became Weill's longest-running show.
Not coincidentally, it made Mary Martin a Broadway star and set the stage for her storied career. With Weill's lush score full of standards (including "Speak Low") matched with witty, urbane lyrics by Ogden Nash and a risqué yet classy book by Nash and legendary humorist S.J. Perelman, ONE TOUCH OF VENUS continues to charm critics and audiences. The Times of London called it "a musical of genuine sparkle and beauty" in 2005, while Opera News described it as "a delight. Anyone looking for a sophisticated musical to revive, with a classy script and an equally classy score, need look no further."
The first-ever complete recording of ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, featuring Melissa Errico, Brent Barrett, Ron Raines, Victoria Clark, and Judy Kaye, is being released by JAY Records and will be available on iTunes on October 7, the evening of the event. (CDs will be available at a later date.) Melissa got raves for her star turn as Venus in the 1996 Encores! production (which also featured Ron Raines), and recorded much of the album shortly afterward. Unfinished, it languished for many years, but finally the additional recording has been completed, with the wonderful addition of Brent Barrett, Victoria Clark, Judy Kaye, and Lauren Worsham.
ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, with lyrics by Ogden Nash and book by S. J. Perelman and Nash, is a madcap spoof of the Pygmalion myth, revolving around a statue of Venus that comes to life when Rodney, a dimwitted New York barber, impulsively slips an engagement ring meant for his fiancée on the statue's finger.
The original Broadway production opened at the Imperial Theatre on October 7, 1943 and closed on February 10, 1945 after 567 performances. It was directed by Elia Kazan, featured choreography by Agnes De Mille, and starred Mary Martin, Kenny Baker and Paula Laurence. Marlene Dietrich reportedly turned down the title role, calling it "too sexy and profane", which gave Martin the opportunity to establish herself as a Broadway star. Among other gems, it introduced the seductive ballad Speak Low.
Reviewing the original production of ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, the New York Post wrote, "It is a pleasure to attend a new musical comedy that is adult, professional, comic, and genuinely musical. It is a long time since we have heard a new and modern score in musical comedy that struck us as something at once popular and unusually fine." The New York World Telegram called Weill's music "the loveliest this side of heaven." The show has been handsomely received in revivals as well: reviewing Opera North's 2004 production, The Times [UK] stated, "It is surely time to acknowledge that his American works represent the peak of Weill's achievement... ONE TOUCH OF VENUS confirms again his mastery of the musical theatre," while the Daily Telegraph said, "What a rare joy when a 'forgotten masterpiece' proves to be so."
This performance is funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc.
The first half of the evening spotlights numbers from Venus, while the second offers selections from Lady in the Dark, Street Scene, Love Life, Knickerbocker Holiday, The Threepenny Opera, and Happy End. Note: the program is subject to change.
Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street. Box office hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 1 pm - 6 pm, open two hours prior to performances and events. Tickets can also be purchased through www.symphonyspace.org, or by calling 212/864-5400.