Skip to main content

GV Now

GVSU Opera Theatre to honor legacy of composer Kurt Weill during cabaret performances

  • Michael DeVries and Grand Valley student Jason Coffey singing "Lily's Eyes" from "The Secret Garden" during a rehearsal in September.
  • Michael DeVries with members of the Kurt Weill Cabaret cast, stage director Dale Schriemer and music director Brendan Hollins.
  • GVSU Opera Theatre students rehearsing "Saga of Jenny."

Posted on October 13, 2017

The legacy of composer Kurt Weill can still be heard today by audiences in concert halls and theaters, and students will honor that legacy when GVSU Opera Theatre performs a selection of Weill’s greatest hits.

“A Kurt Weill Cabaret” will focus on the music of Weill (1900-1950), and the many lyricists who collaborated with him during his life and career.

Performances will take place October 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m., and October 22 at 2 p.m. at the Betty Van Andel Opera Center (1320 Fulton St. SE, Grand Rapids). To purchase tickets, call (616) 451-2741. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and Grand Valley faculty, staff and alumni, and $6 for students.

“Because his music is being performed in both a popular and classical context, no composer in the 20th century had a more wide-ranging influence than Kurt Weill,” said Dale Schriemer, GVSU Opera Theatre director. “Indie artists, rock musicians, metropolitan opera stars and jazz greats have all adopted his music because of its broad appeal.”

Drawing on classical and popular styles, Schriemer said Weill’s works have been performed by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Michael Bublé, Judy Garland, David Bowie, and The Doors. His most famous works include three operas (“Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,” “The Threepenny Opera,” “Street Scene”), three musicals (“One Touch of Venus," “Knickerbocker Holiday,” “Marie Galante”), and a plethora of individual songs and concert pieces.

Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933, Weill, a Jewish composer, traveled to France and subsequently the U.S. while writing in a variety of musical styles that reflected whatever culture he found himself in.

During performances of “A Kurt Weill Cabaret,” each of the 14 students in the ensemble will be featured in both solos and small group numbers. Schriemer said the 70-minute performance will be a blend of funny, satirical and poignant songs, as well as songs of beauty and power.

“This show will differ from traditional music theater productions and opera because, while it may take an entire evening to tell a single story, cabaret performers tell many different stories with each song because each song is in its own universe,” said Schriemer.

The students received expert guidance during rehearsals in September from guest artist Michael DeVries, who has appeared in major productions on Broadway, such as “Wicked,” “Hello, Dolly,” “Secret Garden,” “Grand Hotel” and “Cats.” He has also appeared as a series regular on TV shows such as “Law and Order,” “Sex and the City” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“Quite often, young performers are distracted by achieving technical expertise in the midst of storytelling,” explained Schriemer. “Michael brought them back to the basic questions performers must ask themselves: ‘Who am I speaking to?’ ‘What do I want?’ and ‘Why is this story important?’ The intensity of this experience is a brilliant way for our students to become more skilled artists because it develops confidence and pride of accomplishment.”

For more information about “A Kurt Weill Cabaret,” contact Schriemer at schriemd@gvsu.edu, or visit gvsu.edu/theatre.