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Lost in the Stars

For his final Broadway score, Kurt Weill gave passionate voice to this powerful, uncompromising social indictment of apartheid South Africa. The stirring story is of two aging men -- a black country parson and a white British planter -- drawn into friendship by a shared grief.

The parson's faith is challenged by his son's unintentional murder of the planter's son, while the planter acquires faith through the loss of his son. Sadly, the years have not diminished the timeliness of the theme, which is the tragedy of all people, whether black or white, rich or poor, young or old.

  • Full Length Musical
  • Drama

  • Time Period: 1940s
  • Target Audience: Adult
  • Set Requirements: Unit Set/Multiple Settings
  • Cautions: Intense Adult Themes

  • Performance Group:
  • Community Theatre, Church / Religious Groups, College Theatre / Student, Professional Theatre

  • Accolades:
  • Winner! 1972 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance (Brock Peters)
    Nominee! 2 Tony Awards (1973)
In Ndotsheni, South Africa in the 1940s ("The Hills of Ixopo"), Rev. Stephen Kumalo, a black Anglican priest, has not yet heard from his son Absalom since he left to look for work in Johannesburg a year earlier. Though untroubled at heart ("Thousands of Miles"), he decides to search for Absalom there. At the railroad station ("Train to Johannesburg"), he is greeted by Arthur Jarvis, a white lawyer who is a benefactor of his church, though Arthur's father James, a wealthy planter, frowns upon any association between the races.

In Johannesburg, Stephen takes charge of his sister Gertrude's illegitimate son Alex. His brother John, a tobacconist and Zulu community organizer, tells him Absalom ("The Search") by day, renting a hovel in Shantytown by night. He learns Absalom has served jail time but is on parole living with his pregnant girlfriend Irina. At night his rented hut, Stephen promises little Alex that he will soon take him to Ndotsheni where he will live more comfortably ("The Little Gray House").

Absalom, his cousin Matthew (John's son), and their friend Johannes party at a dive in Shantytown with their girlfriends ("Who'll Buy"). To raise money to support his expected child, Absalom joins a burglary plot with the other two; there seems to be little risk. because Johannes knows the house well. Still, the other two insist that Absalom bring a gun. Irina tries to dissuade him, to no avail. Late Rev. Kumalo and a parole officer find Irina at her hut in Shantytown but she tells them she doesn't know where Absalom is. Stephen disdains her loose morals but makes an alliance with her to find Absalom and keep him out of further legal jeopardy ("Trouble Man").

Absalom, Matthew, and Johannes, faces concealed, break into the home late at night. But a servant there recognizes Johannes's voice; then the homeowner -- Arthur Jarvis, Stephen's patron -- unexpectedly appears. Absalom fires his gun in panic and kills him. The three men flee ("Murder in Parkwold"). Later, the parole officer visits the home and tells Arthur's grieving father James that the police have arrested Johannes; outside in the street both the black and white communities are in turmoil ("Fear!"). The parole officer conducts Stephen to Absalom's jail cell, thus finally reuniting father and son. Stephen doesn't believe Absalom could be guilty of the crime, but Absalom confesses. back in his Shantytown hut, Stephen struggles to explain all the bad news in a letter to his wife back in Ndotsheni. He prays to Tixo (God) fervently, but finds his bedrock faith shaken ("Lost in the Stars").

The Chorus sings of "The Wild Justice" that seems to thwart the impulses of civility.

John Kumalo tells Stephen a good lawyer can get all three men off, but only if they conform their alibis. However, Absalom wants to "go straight" to make it up to his father. Stephen is anguished by this dilemma (O Tixo, Tixo, Help Me!"). He decides to try and plead for mercy with the dead man's father, James Jarvis. He tells him that Absalom has confessed and that he fired his gun accidentally. Could Jarvis intervene so Absalom would receive a life sentence instead of death? Jarvis sternly refuses.

Meanwhile, in her long absence from Absalom, Irina's affection for him has only deepened, despite the trouble he's brought her ("Stay Well"). She tells Stephen that she repents of her ways and will wait for Absalom no matter how long he's in prison. 

At the murder trial Johannes and Matthew both lie, offering shaky alibis. Absalom implicates the two of them and admits his own guilt, but says the gun was only meant to frighten the servant of the house. Yet the judge acquits Matthew and Johannes and sentences Absalom to death. As the Chorus keens ("Cry, the Beloved Country"), Stephen marries Absalom and Irina in the prison cell.

Stephen returns home to Ndotsheni with Irina and Alex to wait out the judicial appeal. One day little Alex is overheard singing ("Big Mole") by young Edward Jarvis. James Jarvis arrives to pick up his grandson and chides him for talking to Alex. Since the murder Jame's wife has also died and now he is left to take care of his orphaned grandson alone. But before they leave he overhears Stephen's voice from the pulpit inside his church and he decides to listen. Stephen is telling his congregation he must resign his pastorate, not only because they has lost their benefactor, not only because his own son has killed, but because Stephen has lost his own faith. His parishioners protest but resign themselves to the transience of life ("Bird of Passage").

The appeals have failed and the execution looms. At dawn Stephen, his wife Grace, and Irina await the dreaded hour when Absalom will be hanged far away in Pretoria ("Four O'Clock"). Suddenly James Jarvis knocks on the door. He has had a profound conversion. He tells Stephen he will step in for everything his son did to support Stephen's church and beseeches Stephen to stay on. Moreover, "I shall come and worship in your church if I wish to worship... Edward will come tomorrow to see Alex. He wants to come and play."

Stephen agrees to stay on. The clock strikes four. Jarvis puts his arm around Stephen. They have become comrades in both grief and hope ("Thousands of Miles" - Reprise).

REVIEWS:

“Beautifully conceived, brilliant in its theatrical effects ...and, without ever being maudlin, is so affecting in its emotional content that not only was the audience at the performance’s end in tears, so were the cast members....A great theatrical experience.”

William Burnett OperaWarhorses.com

"The work remains remarkably moving. Paton's anguished vision of his country's divisions still strikes deep and Weill's score still soars.

Walter Goodman New York Times

"Lost in the Stars proves to be a fresh and compelling piece of work. Weill's richly expansive score is one of the best he ever wrote for Broadway, while Maxwell Anderson's parable-like text is very effective.”

Terry Teachout Wall Street Journal

"A masterwork. Its musical score by Kurt Weill, making generous use of full choruses, is powerful and exciting . . . . Lost in the Stars is a synthesis of song and drama such as you are not likely to have encountered before . . . . A theatrical event of major importance."

John Hobart San Francisco Chronicle

“Of the four Glimmerglass presentations this season, [Lost in the Stars] is the most timely and deeply felt. Through the immediacy of the songs and the quality of the performances, ...labels and genres are transcended. The primacy of art and humanity rise to the fore.”

Joseph Dalton Albany Times Union

"A work of truth, beauty and immense artistry. . . . a triumphant piece of theater."

Howard Barnes New York Herald Tribune

“For her second season at the Glimmerglass Festival ...Francesca Zambello has hit a home run. The high pointis Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars....This hybrid of opera and music theater is ideally served by Tazewell Thompson’s sensitive, understated production; the splendid Glimmerglass chorus; ...and especially the towering, heartfelt performance of Eric Owens. Lost in the Stars resembles an oratorio, and the chorus...brings weight and pathos to the show’s great laments and its theme about how fear keeps the races divided....Subtle stage direction and ... thoughtful conducting let the deep emotion of this piece come through.”

Heidi Waleson Wall Street Journal

“With the lush, urgent conducting of John DeMain and the full-voiced singing of a winning cast, the production, directed by Tazewell Thompson in a dark, affecting and fluid staging, draws out the operatic resonances of Weill’s score. Mr. Owens triumphed in the lead role of Stephen Kumalo.... [His] complete identification with Kumalo comes through in every moment of his searing portrayal.... Nuanced and powerful.”

Anthony Tommasini New York Times

"Weill's music lifts it onto the exalted plane of spiritual experience. Instead of the manufactured uplift of modern musicals, we are offered an overwhelming moral statement about our common humanity."

Michael Billington The Guardian

"Kurt Weill was the greatest composer ever to write for Broadway. Lost in the Stars is very moving . . . with a score of magisterial sweep. A distinguished and thrilling piece of musical theater."

Clives Barnes New York Times

"A masterpiece of articulate eloquence and solid structure that sidesteps obvious clichés.... The point of the show isn't to question individual faults, but how apartheid poisoned people. And the point of this revival is the music--evocative, lush and downright brilliant.... The repeated use of choral singing creates haunting effects, and Weill's original orchestrations alone are so intricate that you'd need a repeat visit to fully appreciate them... Lost in the Stars may have a somber message, but when this kind of magic happens onstage, all feels right with the world--of theater, at least.

Elizabeth Vincentell New York Post

"The shattering story and seductive Weill score had me spellbound."

John Simon Uncensored John Simon

"Triumphant and deeply moving . . . theater at its best."

Theatre

"Packed with gorgeous and emotional musical moments . . . . [Weill's] most dramatically rich work. . . . Anderson's book and lyrics, in the style of musical dramas of the day, is filled with heart-on-its-sleeve sincerity and warm, simple poetry."

Michael Dale Broadway World

"Contains some of [Weill's] most stirring and original work . . . . His music captures native dignity, the bustle of city life, and the plangent feelings of life under assault . . . . Anderson's lyrics, alternately gritty and poetic evocations of individual and collective souls, are ideal complements . . . . A masterful work that, even 61 years after its debut, cries out to be heard."

Matthew Murray Talkin' Broadway

"Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country is one of the great moral acts in literature. In his adaptation Anderson caught much of its power, anguish and dignity, and Weill's music is a treasure of our lyric theater . . . the best show of the Broadway season."

Jack Kroll Newsweek

"The score ranges from some sensuous ballads to a few lighthearted songs to a number of pieces so soaring, so powerful they seem like hymns . . . . A reminder of what great musical theater is."

Howard Kissel Daily News

"Kurt Weill was the greatest composer of theater songs of the century . . . . I am moved closer to tears by the title song of Lost in the Stars than by any other single song created for the American stage."

Alan Rich New York Magazine
Premiere Production: In 1949, Lost in the Stars opened at the Music Box Theatre and ran for 281 performances. It became composer Kurt Weill's final work for the stage.
  • Casting: 10M, 2F
  • Casting Attributes: Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle), Minority casting, Roles for Children
  • Casting Notes: Medium

  • LEADER
    ANSWERER
    STEPHEN KUMALO
    GRACE KUMALO
    NITA
    STATIONMASTER
    YOUNG MAN
    YOUNG WOMAN
    JAMES JARVIS
    ARTHUR JARVIS
    EDWARD JARVIS
    JOHN KUMALO
    PAULUS
    WILLIAM
    JARED
    ALEX
    FOREMAN
    MRS. MKIZE
    HLABENI
    MARK ELAND
    LINDA
    MATTHEW KUMALO
    JOHANNES PAFURI
    ABSALOM KUMALO
    ROSE
    IRINA
    SERVANT
    POLICEMAN
    WHITE MAN
    WHITE WOMAN
    THE GUARD
    BURTON
    THE JUDGE
    PARISIONERS
    McRAE
    VILLAGER
    SINGERS
  • Name Price
    Perusal Material Shipped immediately. This is optional. Order Now

    1 x Libretto-Vocal Book
    1 x Piano Vocal Score

    $24.00
    Rehearsal Material Shipped a minimum of 3 months before the last performance. This must be hired as a condition of the License to produce this show.

    20 x Libretto-Vocal Books
    2 x Piano Vocal Scores

    $550.00 +$135.00/pm
    Orchestral Material Shipped a minimum of 1 month before the last performance. This is optional.

    1 x Full Score (Act I)
    1 x Full Score (Act II)
    2 x Piano/Accordion (Doubles Organ)
    1 x Reed I (Flute, Clarinet, Alto Sax)
    1 x Reed II (Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, Tenor Sax)
    1 x Reed III (Clarinet, Alto Sax, Bass Clarinet)
    1 x Trumpet
    1 x Percussion (Trap Set, Timpani, Glockenspiel, Triangle, Temple Blocks, Gong, Xylophone, Chimes)
    1 x Viola I
    1 x Viola II
    1 x Cello I
    1 x Cello II
    1 x Bass
    1 x Harp

    $350.00 +$135.00/pm
    Lib/Vocal Book 10 Pack Shipped with (or after) Rehearsal Material. This is optional.

    10 x Libretto-Vocal Books

    $50.00 +$50.00/pm