The pure pleasure afforded by the latest in the York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti series is an off-Broadway highlight of the season. The concert-style revival of the 1972 show “Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage” revels in Weill’s glorious music, both in his German period associated with Bertolt Brecht and in the dazzling Broadwayization of his work after he settled in the United States.
A cast of five, seeming much larger, backed by the piano and melodica accompaniment by conductor and musical director Eric Svejcar, does Weill proud. There is an incredibly broad selection of numbers, and whether together or in solos, the troupe assembled and directed by Pamela Hunt consistently brings out the striking elements in Weill’s work. Hunt keeps the show flowing harmoniously, with the cast members moving about intriguingly with their mobile music stands. Given that the musical is performed after less than a week’s rehearsal, it is necessary for the cast to have the score and lyrics at hand, although at times performers have committed all to memory.
Bryan Charles Rooney assumes the role of narrator, who fills us in on the details of Weill’s career and life, and also sings with a satirical wink. Stunning Rachel de Benedet pours heart and soul into “Surabaya Johnny” from the 1929 “Happy End” and in a sexy switch is wickedly entertaining with her interpretation of “The Saga of Jenny” from the 1941 “Lady in the Dark.”
Meghan Picerno, with her thrilling soprano voice, has several highlights, exemplified by the emotional rendition of “That’s Him” from the 1943 “One Touch of Venus.” Michael Halling, who shows versatility in a range of numbers, is especially poignant singing “September Song” from the 1938 “Knickerbocker Holiday.” From the 1936 “Johnny Johnson.” Karl Josef Co excells with two numbers, “Hymn to Peace” and “Johnny’s Song,” as well as makes other important contributions from the Weill repertoire.
The breadth of the musical is impressive, with other shows covered including “The Threepenny Opera,” “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,” “Marie Galante,” “Love Life,” “Street Scene” and “Lost in the Stars,” the particularly expressive title song of the latter given an exquisite group rendition.
It is unusual to find such a fabulous composite of music in one show. The level of the lyrics is also high, reflecting Weill’s work with such collaborators as Jacques Deval, Paul Green, Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Ogden Nash, Alan Jay Lerner and Langston Hughes.
Weill died in 1950 when he was only 50 years old. But he left an enormous legacy, and it is so gratifying to have an opportunity to enjoy so much of it in this stellar revival, thanks to the York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti series. The next one coming up is a concert revival of “Dear World,” February 25-March 5. At The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s, 619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street. Phone: 212-935-5820.