”I’m not sure the new generation really knows who he is, or his place in musical theater history,” Abel Lopez says of Kurt Weill. The composer is best known for The Threepenny Opera and its song ”Mack The Knife” written with Bertolt Brecht in 1928. But Weill also won the very first Tony Award for Best Original Score with the 1947 musical Street Scene, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Elmer Rice and featuring lyrics by Langston Hughes. Surprisingly, Street Scene, which Weill called a ”Broadway opera,” has never been revived on the Great White Way, though it is occasionally still performed by opera companies.
Lopez is helping to shine a spotlight on the overlooked Weill, directing the musical revue From Berlin to Broadway, written by Gene Lerner. ”It’s a musical journey that looks not only at his work but also his life,” Lopez says. For the InSeries production, Lopez has corralled a strong group of local singers to perform selections from the songwriter’s songbook. And local actor Ashley Ivey will serve as a guide through Weill’s life and times, in a way similar to the narrator Ché’s role in Evita.
Born in 1900, Weill was already an established composer when the Jewish composer left his German homeland in 1933 to escape the Nazis, who had targeted him for his left-leaning, populist views. After settling in New York his music shifted to include ”strains of American blues and jazz,” says Lopez.
Weill’s work generally had a social or political lean to it, addressing class issues and cultural concerns that still resonate today. Lopez, who is gay, suggests at least a portion of the LGBT community will appreciate ”not only the social commentary but also the issue of feeling marginalized.” ‘
Berlin to Broadway runs weekends to Sunday, March 10, at ‘Source, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $38.’ Call 202-204-7763 or visit inseries.org.