MasterVoices’ spring production at City Center, from April 25 to 27, was Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, and Moss Hart’s classic play with music, probing psychoanalysis, “Lady in the Dark” (1941), with a new adaptation of the script by Christopher Hart and Kim Kowalke, and both show and realization, guided by Artistic Director, conductor, and stage director Ted Sperling and choreographer Doug Varone, were magnificent and piquant. The first night is considered here.
Victoria Clark, starring as Liza Elliott, stopped the show twice as the eponymous lady, who “cannot make up [her] mind” about whether to be “the executive or the enchantress.” In the part, created by Gertrude Lawrence, of the crisp and businesslike editor of fashion magazine Allure who, in her heart of hearts, dreams of being as great a beauty as the women that her publication covers, Clark endeared herself to us with her fantasy credo in “One Life to Live” and fairy tale about “The Princess of Pure Delight,” but brought down the house with her tour de force, “The Saga of Jenny,” which she followed up with a gorgeous song of memory, “My Ship.”
Collaborating with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the MasterVoices, dressed by Tracy Christensen, with assistance from Zac Posen, Radio City Music Hall, Brooks Brothers, Marchesa, and Thom Browne, in everything from tuxedos and fancy gowns to what looked like swimwear, as befitted a show where fashion is central, serenaded, celebrated, and reminisced about Liza, in the “Glamour Dream” and “Wedding Dream,” of Act One, but reveled in being clowns, jury, and observers, in the dizzying “Circus Dream”-cum-courtroom scene, in Act Two. Designs for “Lady in the Dark,” beside the costumes, were by Doug Fitch (sets), James F. Ingalls (lighting), Scott Lehrer (sound), and Dave Bova (hair and wigs).
Liza’s life is clearly a three-ring circus, as Amy Irving as her wise analyst, Dr. Brooks, brought out, with three eligible men in her life: the married man, Kendall Nesbitt, played with sincerity by Ron Raines; the flashy movie heartthrob, Randy Curtis, originally Victor Mature and here Ben Davis, who shared a romantic duet, “This Is New,” with her; and her hard-boiled guy Friday, Charley Johnson, Christopher Innvar, with whom she spats and spars, but who’s also familiar with the elusive “My Ship.” Which one will she choose?
Priceless as Liza’s sidekicks were David Pittu, as the gayest photographer ever and the ringmaster of her circus, as androgynous as the “Cabaret” MC and engagingly delivering the pattering “Tschaikowsky,” reeling off tongue-twisty names of 50 Russian composers, twice, in a couple of minutes, once the province of Danny Kaye; and Ashley Park as Miss Foster and Montego Glover as Maggie Grant, both swooning over Curtis and first to object when Liza looks likely to make a questionable marriage choice.
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