Also with: Kingsley Leggs, McKinley Johnson, Dathan B. Williams, Ora Jones, Brandon Bush, Michael Bush, Bereniece Jones, JoNell Kennedy, Aisha de Haas, Ajay K. Naidu, J. Patrick McCormack, Frances Limoncelli, Michelle Elise Duffy, Raul E. Esparza, Deon Opperman, Tracy Hultgren, David Bonanno, Matthew Brennan, Anita Berry, Jeffrey L. Burish, Bonita Suzanne Hyman, Ellis Foster, Jonita Lattimore, Lyle Nicholson, Scot Reese, Robert Sims, Glen Washington, JoAnn Hawkins White and Sarah Underwood.
Musical numbers: “The Hills of Ixopo,””Train to Johannesburg,””Thousands of Miles,””Thousands of Miles” (reprise), “The Search,””The Little Gray House, “”Trouble Man,””Fear!,””The Search, Part II,””Lost in the Stars,””The Wild Justice,””Stay Well,””Cry, the Beloved Country,””A Bird of Passage,””Cry, the Beloved Country” (reprise).
Dissatisfied with what he apparently considered some of the dated aspects of Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill’s script for “Lost in the Stars,” Tony Award winner Frank Galati went back to Alan Paton’s novel about South Africa’s racial strife, “Cry, the Beloved Country,” and crafted a new adaptation. But Galati’s considerable staging talents cannot mask the serious flaws in his adaptation.
The script also includes significant adaptations and new arrangements of Weill’s original “Lost in the Stars” score. Those changes prompted the Kurt Weill Foundation to demand that the Goodman place a lengthy note in the showbill to apologize for the company’s “unauthorized” arrangements and adaptations.
Much of the first 70 or so minutes is taken up with the Reverend Stephen Kumalo’s (Ernest Perry Jr.) underdramatized search for his son Absalom (Darius de Haas). Though the Rev. Kumalo’s journey is interrupted by some exquisitely sung music, particularly “The Little Gray House,” the dialogue is lifeless and the conflict next to nonexistent.
Only in the closing minutes of the act does Galati’s story take off. The Rev. Kumalo finds Absalom in jail charged with the murder of a white South African. The reverend’s reunion with his son is simply but movingly staged and is followed by a heart-rending performance of “Lost in the Stars” by de Haas and chorus.
The principal performances, for the most part, have that slightly over-the-edge quality that suggests Galati was striving for an operatic
grandness. De Haas is the most affecting of the lot as Absalom, while Perry falls far short of the mark in the key role of the Rev. Kumalo. Brian A. Grandison needs to sharpen his performance as the Rev. Msimangu. John Reeger, however, shines in the two small parts of the Judge and Captain van Jaarsveld.
Edward Zelnis presides over a fine-sounding 12-piece pit orchestra. Loy Arcenas’ sets don’t do enough to vary the look of the stage space. But what Arcenas’ work lacks is more than made up for by the lush reds and yellows in the palette of lighting designer James F. Ingalls. Susan Hilferty’s costumes are right on target.