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A CurtainUp Review
Music in the Air
Kern got his way, yet Hammerstein managed to make Munich look an awful lot like Tin Pan Alley. That, together with Hammerstein's experimentation with dialogue and smooth transitions from spoken word to song, keep Music in the Air remarkably accessible to a modern audience, despite its outdated storyline. The operetta has not been seen in New York since its premiere at the Alvin Theatre in 1932, produced by former Ziegfeld girl, Peggy Fears, and Elizabeth Marbury, one of the first female producers on Broadway — until its restoration by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization for the second Encores! production of New York City Center's 2008-2009 season with a cast of some of Broadway's most notable heavyweights.
Krisin Chenoweth was the diva Frieda Hatzfeld, who almost loses the leading lady role in the upcoming production to Sieglinde Lessing (Sierra Boggess), the pretty young girl from the village, daughter to composer Dr. Walter Lessing (Tom Alan Robbins), and beloved of music teacher Karl Reder (Ryan Silverman). Douglas Sills was the egotistical librettist, Bruno Mahler, who almost throws Frieda over for the innocent and possibly available Sieglinde. And Marni Nixon, better known for semi-anonymous dubbing, took to the stage as Frau Direktor Lilli Kirschner.
With such a formidable creative team and cast, director Gary Griffin certainly had a lot to work with. The show, in fact glid as smoothly as . . .music in the air. Chenoweth's characteristic humor and zest combined with her extraordinary voice to make the evening especially memorable. And Nixon's voice certainly belies her age. Her "In Egern on the Tegern See" seemed made for her.
Although many of the songs in have not withstood the changing tastes of time, the beautiful ballad "This Song Is You" and the delightful composition attributed to Lessing in the show, "I've told Every Little Star," were familiar to many. (In fact Kern had transcribed a bird's song he'd heard for "I've Told Every Little Star.")
The Encores! shows are called staged readings, but, of course, they include elaborate costumes and sets that, while minimal, quite adequately convey the time and place of the action. Music in the Air was a wonderful reminder of a time when romance, happy endings, wit and elegance could survive even while many were experiencing extreme hardship. It might be a fine lesson for us today.
Like all these concerts, this one ran for so few performances which explains why this review is in the past tense--and not one I can end by urging you to go see it.