Lady in the Dark
|Lady in the Dark|
1954 Television movie
1981 Nottingham, UK
1997 London concert
Lady in the Dark is a musical with music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and book and direction by Moss Hart. It was produced by Sam Harris. The protagonist, Liza Elliott, is the unhappy female editor of a fashion magazine, Allure, who is undergoing psychoanalysis. The musical ran on Broadway in 1941, in the United Kingdom in 1981, and was also made into a 1944 film and a live 1954 television special.
The musical's theme of psychoanalysis is said to be based on Hart's own experiences with psychoanalyst Gregory Zilboorg. Except for the final song, all the music in the play is heard in three extended dream sequences: the Glamour Dream, the Wedding Dream, and the Circus Dream which, to some extent, become three small operettas integrated into a straight play. The final song, "My Ship", functions as a leitmotif for Liza's insecurity: as each dream commences, a snippet of the tune is heard, as it is a haunting melody which Liza recognizes but cannot name, or sing with words, until her anxiety is resolved.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon) on January 23, 1941 and closed on May 30, 1942 after 467 performances. Direction was by Hart, produced by Sam H. Harris, with musical staging by Hassard Short, who also was the production designer, and choreography by Albertina Rasch. The original cast starred Gertrude Lawrence, Danny Kaye, Bert Lytell, Victor Mature, Margaret Dale, Davis Cunningham and Macdonald Carey.
Kaye's performance as fashion photographer Russell Paxton, and particularly his consistently showstopping performance of the patter song "Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians)" in which he dashes through the names of 50 Russian composers in 39 seconds, made him a star. The musical went on an eight city tour for 160 performances,and also played on the West Coast, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, for 56 performances. The show then ran at The Broadway Theatre from February 27 through May 15, 1943, for 83 performances. Gertrude Lawrence reprised her role as Liza Elliott in all venues.
Subsequent productions 
The musical opened on the West End at the Royal National Theatre, London, on March 11, running through August 2, 1997, directed by Francesca Zambello and starring Maria Friedman. The production received the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical.
The 1944 film version starred Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland. It cut most of the Weill/Gershwin songs, though "The Saga of Jenny" and "Girl of the Moment" remained, and part of "This Is New" is played by a nightclub band in the background. "My Ship" was heard as background music, but never sung, even though the music was constantly referred to in the story. Kaye's role went to Hollywood's "Mad Russian," the slightly taller Mischa Auer. Lady in the Dark was twice presented on radio, in 1947 and 1950, for Theatre Guild on the Air. Gertrude Lawrence reprised her role both times and Keene Crockett played Russell. Judy Garland also performed the role of Liza (opposite John Lund) in the CBS Lux Radio Theater adaptation of the show on on February 16, 1953.
The musical was broadcast on NBC television on September 25, 1954, as part of an intermittent series under the umbrella title Max Liebman Presents. Ann Sothern played Liza, and Carleton Carpenter played Russell. A cast recording of the TV special was released on Sepia.
Although recordings of individual songs were made, no attempt was made to record the entire score until 1963, when Lehman Engel produced a stereo studio recording for Columbia, starring Risë Stevens, Roger White, and Adolph Green. This recording was reissued as a Masterworks Heritage CD, MHK 62869. The reissue also includes five 1941 mono recordings of songs (including Tschaikowsky) sung by Danny Kaye. According to the liner notes, the maximum playing time of an LP did not permit including everything, and some cuts were made (though they are not specified).
The Royal National Theatre revival in 1997 led to the first complete recording of the score (TER/JAY).
- Detailed review of the film moviediva.com, accessed February 4, 2011
- McClung, Bruce. p. 33
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- Capsuto, Steven (2000). Alternate Channels: The Uncensored Story of Gay and Lesbian Images on Radio and Television. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-41243-5
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- 1947 Theatre Guild on the Air radio adaptation at Internet Archive