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Stageworks celebrates Kurt Weill

By JOHN FLEMING, Performing Arts Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 9, 2000

[Photo: Stageworks]
Tampa’s Stageworks performs Kurt Weill’s theater music. Singers Rome Harbinson and Heather Curran, above, will perform in the production.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Kurt Weill's birth, and Stageworks is marking the occasion with Berlin to Broadway, a revue of his music ranging from Berlin cabaret songs to Broadway show tunes.

"It's basically all his theater music, everything from Threepenny Opera to Mahagonny to Happy End to Johnny Johnson to Lost in the Stars," director Nancy Cole said. "It's the best of Kurt Weill compacted into one beautiful evening of music."

Weill, who died in 1950, started out as an opera composer in Germany, teaming up with Bertolt Brecht on The Threepenny Opera, The Seven Deadly Sins and other works as well as now-forgotten works such as Die Burgschaft. After emigrating to America in 1935, he landed on Broadway and teamed up with leading lyricists such as Maxwell Anderson (Knickerbocker Holiday), Ira Gershwin (Lady in the Dark), Ogden Nash (One Touch of Venus) and Alan Jay Lerner (Love Life).

Casting for the Stageworks production includes four singers -- Rome Harbinson, Heather Curran, Kris Clayton, Donna Delonay -- emcee Darren Frazier and a combo under the musical direction of Steve McColley.

"The singers are young but with some very good chops," Cole said. "Part of the joy of this is to try and bring their talent to the music of Kurt Weill. September Song, for example, is a wonderful ballad, and you can interpret it 50 different ways. As a stage director, you look at the singer, the song and the circumstances and say, "How can this singer best approach this song? How can this be the best possible distillation of this song for this singer?' "

Berlin to Broadway opens tonight and runs through June 25 at the Hillsborough Community College Theater in Ybor City. Tickets are $8 to $16. Call (813) 258-6757.

There's more Weill in Florida this month. One of his most innovative works, Street Scene, with lyrics by Langston Hughes, is being performed Thursday through June 25 at the Seaside Music Theater in Daytona Beach. Tickets are $23 to $35. Call (904) 252-6200.

CURIOSITY -- Usually, Jeff Norton can find good in even the most despicable characters he portrays onstage, but he's having trouble with his latest role, the Dickensian arch-villain Daniel Quilp in an adaptation by Matthew Francis of The Old Curiosity Shop.

"One of the things I try to find in anyone I play is what's good about them, but Quilip is the quintessential bad guy," Norton said. "There's not a redeeming thing about him. He's just mean."

Norton's Quilp will be on display in the University of South Florida production of The Old Curiosity Shop, staged by Francis, who also did the adaptation and direction of The Three Musketeers last year for the theater department. Norton is the only professional in the large cast, which otherwise is made up of students.

Francis, former artistic director of the Greenwich Theatre in London, has cut the enormous Dickens novel drastically down to size for his stage version. "Needless to say, the play is not bounded by realism," Norton said.

The Old Curiosity Shop has performances Thursday through June 18 at USF Theatre II on the Tampa campus, then the production moves to the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg for shows June 21 through 23. Tickets are $4 and $8. Call (813) 974-2323.

MUSIC FEST - The Sarasota Music Festival continues this weekend with a pair of loosely themed programs. "Three Centuries in Vienna" tonight features works of Mozart, Richard Strauss and Schoenberg (Verklarte Nacht); Saturday night's "Decidedly Dvorak" concert includes the Trio in F and Sextet in A of Dvorak, as well as Beethoven's Trio in G. Performances are at 8 p.m. at the Sarasota Opera House. Pianist Robert Levin gives a pre-concert talk tonight at 7:15. Tickets are $16 to $30. Call (941) 953-3434.

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