Lost in the Stars
It’s safe to assume that the City Center Encores! production of “Lost in the Stars,” Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s dark and difficult 1949 musical based on Alan Paton’s novel “Cry, the Beloved Country,” will not be transferring to Broadway. It probably won’t even fill City Center to capacity during its limited weekend-long run.
But it is a worthy and fascinating choice of programming for the much beloved musical theater company. And Gary Griffin’s focused staging – which is anchored by tremendous vocal performances from Cooper and Darrington – is a must-see for anyone who cares about rare musicals, political theater or the long and varied career of Kurt Weill. Hopefully it will also be preserved with a cast recording.
The musical observes a black South African preacher (Cooper) from the country whose faith in God and justice is shaken when his son (Daniel Breaker) murders a wealthy white man during a botched robbery in Johannesburg.
A chorus of storytellers (Darrington) observes the story and directly addresses the audience in operatic and dramatic overtones. It often feels as if you are watching two very different musicals mixed together. For instance, when Patina Miller, randomly sings a sexy nightclub number, you can’t help but wonder where it came from.
While the musical is probably best known for its title song, which has been covered by countless cabaret performers, most of the score consists of angry character ballads and ominous exposition from the on-looking chorus.
The story has not aged very well. The characters are not explored in great depth, and the streamlined adaptation of the original book only adds to this feeling of superficiality. But looking back, one can definitely admire its willingness of the musical’s creators to tackle racial issues a decade prior to the Civil Rights Movement.
City Center, 55th St., 212-581-1212, citycenter.org. Through Sun.