|Kurt Weill:||Lost in the Stars|
Absalom Kumalo: LaShon Cross
Irina: Jaemie Harley
James Jarvis: John Kruse
John Kumalo: Victory Smith
Stephen Kumalo: Nathaniel Stampley, baritone
Jamie Schmidt, conductor
A nearly full house was on hand at Music Hall Sunday afternoon to hear the last of three performances by the University Opera of Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars, Maxwell Anderson's adaptation of Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country.
Lost in the Stars is a mixture of opera, musical theater, and spoken drama, portraying tension and tragedy in racially divided South Africa. This performance was partially staged by Linda Franklin, members of the chorus coming forward when they had lines to speak or songs to sing. Though minimal, the device was dramatically effective. It's a beautiful and intensely moving work.
Of the large cast, five roles especially stood out. John Kruse played James Jarvis, the embodiment of white racism, with a convincing amalgam of rigid paternalism and common humanity. As the confused country child and accidental murderer sentenced to hang, LaShon Cross made Absalom Kumalo believable yet heart-rending. In the role of Absalom's lover Irina, Jaemie Harley was a credible embodiment of devotion despite difficult circumstances. As the city-wise John Kumalo, Victory Smith was strong, cynical, and practical. As the morally upright Stephen Kumalo, the father of Absalom and brother of John, Nathaniel Stampley was the key figure around which the whole drama turns. Stampley's rich baritone singing voice and highly affecting acting were the keys to this very successful production, and merited him a well-deserved major ovation at the conclusion of the work.
Jamie Schmidt very ably conducted the 15-piece student pit orchestra, nicely balancing the sound and supporting the singers, several of whom were untrained voices. Schmidt kept things moving forward with very few gaps.
Isthmus, February, 1998
Copyright 1998 Jess Anderson