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Rebecca

Around 30 Tony-winning best musicals have been made into Hollywood films, but Broadway has rarely returned the favor: Only three winners of the best picture Oscar successfully transferred to the musical theater stage ("Grand Hotel," "All About Eve" and "The Apartment"). We now can add "Rebecca" to that list.

With:
"I" - Wietske van Tongeren Maxim de Winter - Uwe Kroger Mrs. Danvers - Susan Rigvava-Dumas Jack Favell - Carsten Lepper Mrs. Van Hopper - Carin Filipcic Beatrice - Kerstin Ibald Frank Crawley - Andre Bauer Ben - Norberto Bertassi

Around 30 Tony-winning best musicals have been made into Hollywood films, but Broadway has rarely returned the favor: Only three winners of the best picture Oscar successfully transferred to the musical theater stage (“Grand Hotel,” “All About Eve” and “The Apartment”). We now can add “Rebecca” to that list. Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay deliver a work every bit as compelling as their hit “Elisabeth,” the most successful German-language musical of all time, while Francesca Zambello’s dazzling, cinematic production offers storytelling at its best, clearly defining the whirlpool of emotions experienced by the three tortured principal characters.

Never straying far from Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Kunze’s deft lyrics take us deep into the psyches of the never-named heroine (simply called “I”); moody, mercurial Maxim de Winter; obsessive Mrs. Danvers; and even the late Rebecca herself.

Levay knows how to write tunes that jam in your head; he delivers the goods with Mrs. Danvers’ haunting “Rebecca” and the anthem “The Power of a Woman in Love.”

The unrelentingly dark tale is balanced by well-calibrated humor as Rebecca’s rakish lover, Favell, sings a snide ditty, “You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours,” or the ensemble sends up stereotypes in “We Are British.”

Designer Peter J. Davison stunningly captures the atmosphere, from heady summer nights on the Riviera to the oppressive decay of Manderley. The boathouse where Rebecca spent her last night swirls out of the mists; the mansion’s grand staircase spins, rising from beneath the stage as the heroine descends its steps, providing a climactic entrance to the masquerade that closes the first act. The final conflagration looks impressively dangerous as flames engulf the stage.

Birgit Hutter’s lavish costumes adhere to the period of du Maurier’s novel, the middle 1920s, and the outlandish masquerade costumes provide a welcome break from reality. Adding significantly to the show’s look are Andrew Voller’s magical lighting effects and astounding interactive video from Sven Ortel.

Wietske Van Tongeren has all the endearing pipsqueak qualities to make the nameless heroine endearing, expertly conveying the slow transformation from little brown mouse to confident, strong woman. Her performance is marred only by her screechy pop vocal production, which sounds as if she’s been watching “American Idol” instead of listening to “My Fair Lady.”

Uwe Kroger has built a substantial career on his pretty-boy looks. As Maxim, they work against him: He seems too young, too fey, too lightweight for such a haunted, world-weary character. His singing, while impassioned, is merely adequate, but he rises to the challenge of confessing his hatred for Rebecca in “No Smile Was Ever as Cold.”

Mrs. Danvers gets the best music, and in Susan Rigvava-Dumas has found a perfect interpreter. Hers is entirely an original creation, blessedly free of the influence of Judith Anderson’s legendary perf for Hitchcock. With a rich mezzo-soprano as her weapon, she embodies evil born of passion and jealousy in a multi-layered turn.

Gaudy, acid-tongued Mrs. Van Hopper gets written out of the story early on, but with the epic talents of belter par excellence Carin Filipcic and a need for some levity, she returns as a masquerade guest, brazenly trumpeting “I’m an American Woman” in a show-stopping production number.

Scoring big in supporting roles are Carsten Lepper as odious Favell; Kerstin Ibald, a sympathetic Beatrice; Andre Bauer, a dashing Frank Crawley; and Norberto Bertassi, a spooky Ben.

The immortal line “Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley” provides prologue and epilogue, appropriately faithful bookends for this dream of a show.

Rebecca

Raimund Theater, Vienna ; 1,170 Seats; E95 ($120) Top

Production: A Vereinigte Buhnen Wien presentation of a musical in two acts with music and orchestrations by Sylvester Levay, book and lyrics by Michael Kunze, based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier. Directed by Francesca Zambello. Music director, Caspar Richter. Choreography, Denni Sayers.

Creative: Sets, Peter J. Davison; costumes, Birgit Hutter; lighting, Andrew Voller; video, Sven Ortel; sound, Hendrik Maassen. Opened, reviewed Sept. 28, 2006. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MIN. Musical numbers: "I Dreamt of Manderley," "You Will Never Be a Lady," "He Suddenly Lost His Wife Rebecca," "On the Edge," "Time in a Bottle," "Wedding," "The New Mrs. de Winter," "She Will Not Surrender," "The Dear Relatives," "Are You Happy?," "Are You Angry?," "Help Me Through the Night," "What Is Wrong With Him?" "She Was Used to Being Loved," "Rebecca," "We Are British," "She's Gone," "God, Why?," "Honesty and Truth," "The Ball at Manderley," "I'm an American Woman," "Tonight I Will Bewitch the World," "Act One Finale," "And That and That and That," "Rebecca" (reprise), "Just a Step," "Flotsam and Jetsam," "She's Gone" (reprise), "You Loved Her Too Much," "No Smile Was Ever as Cold," "The Power of a Woman in Love," "The New Mrs. de Winter" (reprise), "I Am Mrs. de Winter," "The Enquiry," "You Scratch My Back and I'll Scratch Yours," "She's Gone" (reprise), "They Left at Eight," "No One Saw Through Her," "Rebecca" (reprise), "Beyond the Night," "Manderley in Flames," "I Dreamt of Manderley" (reprise), "Act Two Finale."

Cast: "I" - Wietske van Tongeren Maxim de Winter - Uwe Kroger Mrs. Danvers - Susan Rigvava-Dumas Jack Favell - Carsten Lepper Mrs. Van Hopper - Carin Filipcic Beatrice - Kerstin Ibald Frank Crawley - Andre Bauer Ben - Norberto BertassiWith: Kathleen Bauer, Bettina Bogdany, Sigrid Brandstetter, Michaela Christl, Katharina Dorian, Andreas Kammerzelt, Nathalie Kleeberger, Robert D. Marx, Marcel Meyer, Oliver Mulich, Kai Peterson, Tim Reichwein, Claudie Reinhard, Henrik Sehnert, Christoph Sommersguter, Jana Stelley, Lucius Wolter, Joana Fee Wurz.

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