Kurt Weill’s 100th birthday this year has been ignored by Broadway, which isn’t particularly surprising, since his rare Broadway hits (“Lady in the Dark,” “One Touch of Venus”) aren’t the kind of family-friendly fare that can guarantee the mass audiences Broadway musicals now require. Weill-o-philes have had to content themselves with various celebrations at BAM and the Philharmonic, and now, on a smaller scale, with “Berlin to Broadway With Kurt Weill,” a revival of a 1973 revue that’s settled into the somewhat uncomfortable Triad Theater for a spell.
A straightforward and ample selection of songs served up chronologically, the show is neatly split between the Berlin Weill and the Broadway Weill, with a brief intermission marking the transition. A tenor, a light baritone, a soprano and a mezzo evenly split the singing duties, doing their best to negotiate the show’s volatile mixture of styles, from the acrid tone of the early Brecht collaborations to the more cheerily satiric musical comedies of the early 1940s and the more earnestly colored material from “Street Scene” and “Lost in the Stars.”
Broadway fares better than Berlin, in general. The spiky selections from “The Threepenny Opera,” “Happy End” and “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” that dominate the first half make for a somewhat unrelentingly sour hour — a martini with far too much vermouth. These songs also suffer more than the Broadway ones do from the absence of context, not to mention the vagaries of translation.
The performers seem more at home with the material of the second act. Soprano Veronica Mittenzwei sings a lush and sensitively phrased “My Ship.” Clear-toned baritone Bjorn Olsson beautifully renders the yearning lilt of the title song from “Lost in the Stars,” with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Lorinda Lisitza doesn’t quite have the sly stylishness required for Ira Gershwin’s saucy “The Saga of Jenny” — she vamps through the song somewhat aggressively in unfortunate red gloves. She’s more at home with the besotted romanticism of “It Never Was You.” Tenor Michael Winther is a bit vocally taxed by “Johnny’s Song” from “Johnny Johnson.”
The cast is supported at the piano by the unfailingly accomplished work of Eric Stern, who is also the show’s musical director, and William Barclay’s artful collage of period posters makes for a stylish backdrop.