Lady in the Dark

Book by Moss Hart. Music by Kurt Weill. Lyrics by Ira Gershwin. The original Broadway production opened on 23 January 1941 and was directed by Moss Hart with musical staging by Hassard Short and choreography by Albertina Rasch, running for 467 performances.

Synopsis and Musical Numbers

Liza Elliot is an executive at a popular women’s maganzine, Allure. Although she is successful in every way – her job could not be better and she is having a wonderful relationship with a gentleman, even though he is married – she has been having attacks of depression and mood swings, which make it difficult for her to concentrate on her work. She makes an appointment with Doctor Alexander Brooks, a good-looking and pleasant psychoanalyst in his mid-forties. In his office, Brooks interrogates her about her problems, asking her to lie down on his couch and then to tell him anything that comes to mind. She remembers a particular childhood melody, which she has been hearing in her dreams, and Brooks asks her to hum it. As she does, she begins to dream.

The dream starts as 12 men, all dressed in faultless evening wear, proclaim their admiration for Liza (OH, FABULOUS ONE IN YOUR IVORY TOWER). Sutton, Liza’s maid (who is in reality Miss Foster, Liza’s exceptionally beautiful secretary at Allure, thanks the suitors on behalf of Liza but tells them that her mistress is unavailable. Inside, Beekman, Liza’s chauffeur (who is in reality Russel Paxton, the gay photographer at Allure), lavishes praises on his mistress while Liza discusses her extraordinary schedule with Sutton (THE WORLD’S INAMORTA). Beekman then drives Liza to a party. En route, she asks him to stop because she would like to get on a soapbox to address the crowd (ONE LIFE TO LIVE). They get back in the car and head to Seventh Heaven where the party is already underway. Pierre, the headwaiter (in reality, Liza’s married loved, Kendall Nesbitt), rushes to Liza. He makes a fool of himself by the flourish of praise that he gives her, then calls for everyone’s attention. The crowd toasts Liza – she is the GIRL OF THE MOMENT.

Suddenly a bugle is heard and in marches a soldier, sailor and marine (in reality, Allure‘s advertising manager, Charley Johnson). He brings a message from the President who wishes to have Liza’s portrait painted. When the portrait is unveiled, it is not flattering. Liza appears as she appeared in the doctor’s office: austere and somewhat forbidding, entirely without glamour. She looks at it and screams, then covers her face. The crowd, who is at first perplexed, becomes cynical and they all begin to laugh and mock her, commenting that, indeed, IT LOOKS LIKE LIZA. Liza wakes up and Brooks remarks that it is interesting to see the polarized differences of the woman in reality and the woman in her dreams. He makes an appointment for the next day and Liza leaves.

In Liza’s office, Miss Foster, is putting letters on Liza’s desk, while Miss Stevens, the receptionist, and Maggie Grant discuss Randy Curtis, the handsome new star that is modeling for Allure. Russell also sings Randy’s praises and has organised for him to meet Liza in her office. enters the room in a flurry. He is hysterical with praise over the new model Randy Curtis, whom he wishes Liza to meet. Charley arrives for an appointment with Liza, who asks him to wait while she meets Randy. Charley, a slightly mischievous man, asks Randy for his autograph, causing an embarrassing situation. When the time for Charley’s meeting arrives, Liza makes a poor attempt at and apology for a temper tantrum she had the previous day – during which she threw a paperweight at him. He storms out anrily as Kendall arrives to tell Liza that he has divorced his wife for her. Instead of being pleased, she becomes visibly upset and, after Randy asks Liza for a dinner date and she accepts, Kendall storms out of the office too. Liza becomes more upset. She cancels all of her appointments and locks the door. She lies on the couch and as she begins to hum her melody, she once again begins to dream.

The dream begins with a graduation ceremony, with boys and girls carrying their diplomas (MAPLETON HIGH CHORAL). Liza and Kendall are choosing a ring for Liza. She is hesitant but finally decides on one. The salesman (Charley) offers her a dagger in place of the ring, but Liza recoils and covers her eyes as both men disappear. Randy comes to her and takes her hands and she smiles up at him (THIS IS NEW). Afterwards, Liza dances with Charley and while six women, all resembling Liza are serenaded by Randy (THE PRINCESS OF PURE DELIGHT). Eventually, Liza is left alone and as she hums the beginning of that her song, she begint to remembers the rest. But the dream world alters and it is Liza and Kendall’s wedding day. At the altar, Charley – who is the minister – asks whether any one knows why the couple should not marry. He answers his own question, saying that Liza does not love Kendall, an accusation that Liza emphatically tries to deny (THIS WOMAN AT THE ALTAR).

Meanwhile, Maggie – who is unsure of the virtues of psycho-analysis – goes to see Doctor Brooks about Liza. Brooks tries to reassure her and she leaves feeling better. Liza arrives for her appointment and they discuss her extreme reaction at the news of Kendall’s divorce and her subsequent dream. Brooks points out that Liza is another glamorous woman in this dream. He also suggests that perhaps she is afraid to compete with other women. Liza becomes upset and tells him that she will not be continuing counseling. Back in the office, Alison, Russell and Maggie waiting anxiously for for Liza’s return. Liza finally arrives and apologizes, suggesting that they all go right to work. Kendall arrives and Liza finally admits to him that she does not want to marry him. Kendall leaves, promising that he will fight for her. Charley enters and gives Liza his resignation. Liza tells him that she will meet whatever offer has been made to him but Charley refuses, telling her that he has been given the same position as hers. The discussion quickly becomes an argument. Charley accuses her of being married to her desk and having magazines instead of babies. When he leaves she begins to cry uncontrollably. Randy arrives for their date, telling Liza that he is relieved that he won’t be seeing another glamour girl. She tells him to wait outside for her while she changes. Barely waiting for the door to close, she rips off her own clothes and gets dressed into one of the dresses on the mannequins in her office.

The following afternoon, Liza works on a magazine layout at her desk. Maggie and Alison ask her to go out for a cocktail on the way home but Liza refuses and they leave. She tries to concentrate on her work but begins to have a difficult time as voices taunt her from behind the scenes. Another dream begins as she finds herself in the cirus themed cover design she has been studying. The Ringmaster (Russell) and other circus folk arrive, singing that theirs is THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. The Ringmaster presents Liza as a freak because of her inability to make decisions regarding her personal life. Charley enters as a prosecuting attorney in a trial, while the defense attorney is Randy Curtis. Soon the jury arrives in a fit of tumbling (DANCE OF THE TUMBLERS). After this fanfare, Charley and Randy battle over Liza’s innocence or guilt: she is accused of not being able to make up her mind about marrying Kendall (THE BEST YEARS OF HIS LIFE). The Ringmaster remarks in the middle of the trial that he likes the music that is being sung and tells of his love for the great composers like TSCHAIKOWSKY. The trial proceeds and Liza defends herself by telling THE SAGA OF JENNY, a girl who could always make up her mind and who did did not fare well as a result. Randy, the jury and the Ringmaster all congratulate her. She finally goes back to her seat and picks up the drawing of the circus cover. Charley and the jury look at the circus cover, then begin to sing the opening bars of the childhood melody that Liza knows so well. She screams and snatches the drawing from Charley’s hand. Charley accuses Liza od being afraid afraid to be the woman she wants to be and fades into the distance as the dream comes to an end.

Liza returns to Doctor Brooks to tell him about her dream, in which Liza was reminded of feelings that she felt in the past. She tries to remember when she felt that way and sees, in her mind’s eye, a small group of people dressed in the evening clothes of 1904. In the group, a woman of great beauty – Liza’s mother – stands out from the others. A man arrives, carrying a small child in his arms. It is Liza. The women in the group remark that Liza is a beautiful girl, but both parents laughingly deny this is true. The child is silent for a moment, looking up into their faces and then, struggling against tears, begins the little song that has haunted Liza throughout her adult life. She breaks into sobs and runs from the room. Next, a group of school children and their teacher appear. The teacher is picking children for parts in a play. She chooses David Reed for the prince and Liza Elliot for the princess but David refuses to be the prince unless they find a pretty princess. Little Liza is deeply embarrassed and runs from the room. Liza next remembers her mother’s illness and death and how she was unable to grieve, hating her for being so beautiful and for denying her own natural beauty. The next memory is Liza’s graduation and she is dancing with Ben after they hear that he has won the award for most handsome boy and she the most popular girl. They walk to a bench, where Ben promises to take Liza to the graduation supper. Liza begins singing her melody, but this time she remembers it all (MY SHIP). Another girl, Barbara, walks over to them. She is Ben’s girlfriend, although they have been fighting. Ben leaves with Barbara, but promises to be right back. He never returns. When the memory fades and reality returns, Brooks tells Liza that she has withdrawn into herself as a woman as she could no longer take the risk of being hurt by competing with them. He concludes by saying that her attacks, fears and hurt are showing themselves as a physical rebellion at her unfulfillment as a woman.

A week later, in Liza’s office, Charley and Maggie are waiting for their friend and colleague. Charley tells Maggie that although he enjoys irritating Liza, he still admires her. However, as a woman, he believes her to be a failure. Liza arrives, followed by Randy. They speak about the wonderful afternoon they have had then he leaves. Liza asks Charley in to her office. She has decided that she has a few answers for the man who usually seems to have them all. He refuses to bicker with her leaves when Kendall arrives. Liza tells Kendall that their relationship is over and they part friends. After Kendall exits, Randy arrives. He proposes to her and she is so surprised that she tells him she will answer later. Randy leaves and Charley strolls in. This time Liza asks him to share her job with her. He agrees, ecstatic, then dashes into the other room to gather his materials. Upon her return, Maggie is astonished to see the two working peacefully together. Liza smiles, then slowly begins to sing her song. Charley, as the remembered words come back to him, softly joins in. Maggie looks curiously from one to the other, then elaborately sinks into a chair and folds her hands in her lap. Liza is singing gaily, oblivious to Maggie. She and Charley half smile at each other – she has made peace with herself as a woman.

Mini Gallery

Lady in the Dark Lady in the Dark Lady in the Dark Lady in the Dark


FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: 1. Lady in the Dark 1950 Radio Production CD. 2. Lady in the Dark 1954 Television Soundtrack CD. 3. Lady in the Dark 1963 Studio Cast CD. 4. Lady in the Dark 1997 Original London Cast CD. 5. Lady in the Dark Vocal Score.


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