Review

Hap Erstein | Palm Beach Post

Theaters in South Florida often resort to musical revues in the summertime to provide audiences with light escapist entertainment and the heat. And then there is Palm Beach Dramaworks, which won its first Carbonell Awards with a forceful retrospective of Jacques Brel's melancholy, antiromantic and antiwar songs last summer. The company now demonstrates that production was no fluke with a similarly hard-edged amble through the career of composer Kurt Weill, from Berlin to Broadway. Dramaworks wisely brings back director J. Barry Lewis, whose thoughtful and sly touch helped make Jacques Brel such a success for the fledgling troupe. He has gathered a different quartet of performers and a new musical director accompanist for an evening that is less audience-friendly, but for those willing to dig their heels in and confront Weill's ominous, often angry songs, is no less entertaining. With the help of resourceful scenic designer Michael Amico, Berlin to Broadway is set in a musty, Old World bar, an apt location for the low-lifes and petty crooks of Weill's musicals. Bruce Linser, passed out face down on the bar at the show's outset, uses his sweet tenor voice as a poignant contrast to such bitter geographic numbers as "Bilbao Song" and "Song of Mandalay". Bearded baritone Michael Testa scores with what is probably Weill's best-known composition, Threepenny's sinuous "Mack the Knife." Elizabeth Dimon best demonstrates the sea change in Weill's writing with her steely first act standout, "Pirate Jenny", followed later by the nimbly playful "Saga of Jenny". Completing the foursome is South Florida newcomer Shelly Keelor, whose rendition of Lady in the Dark's "My Ship" is haunting. Their voices blend well, even amid the discordance, a credit to musical director Paul Reekie and his tireless piano accompaniment. When you have edgy, caustic material like this and a talented cast, you just stand back and let them sing.