Tonight - Lola Blau
By Georg Kreisler, with an English Version by Don White
Copywright 1974 Josef Weinberger Limited
Perfromed at the New End Theatre London NW3
January 7-30, 2005
Tonight: Lola Blau was first performed in the Kleines Theater der Josefstadt in Vienna and ended after a run of 175 sold-out performances. This success, later repeated in Berlin, Hamburg and Israel, had not been expected by anyone, least of all by the manager of the Kleines Theater der Josefstadt, who had been under the impression that Topsy Kueppers, who created the role of Lola Blau, was going to give an evening of chansons. But the public everywhere has taken Lola Blau to its heart, because it recognised instantly that Lola Blau's story is the story of the twentieth century.
Lola Blau is a Jewish singer trying to find work in Nazi-occupied Vienna. When the going gets tough, she gets going, escaping to the United States where she is obliged to sing in seedy nightclubs before achieving fame. After the war she returns with some trepidation, to Vienna.
Her story is told in a near continuous flow of Kurt Weill-style numbers, each cleverly evoking a mood, a period and a particular environment in words and musical accompaniment. We first see Lola in optimistic vein packing to leave for her first job in Linz, singing 'Number One, Theatre Street', all naïve ambition and impossible dreams. A moment later she's being evicted a day early by a landlady concerned about renting to Jews, prompting 'Silent Voices' whose lyrics display the sense of betrayal and paranoia produced by Nazi anti-semitism.
Other numbers show Lola at railway stations, in cheap cabarets, or on the move again until with 'Miracles Can Happen' she gets a US visa.
There are around twenty chansons, during and between numbers we glimpse stills and footage of hard historic facts - Hitler on podiums, daubed 'Juden' signs and body-littered battlefields. Lola's pride at having survived and her guilt at having left Europe is neatly and poignantly caught by juxtaposing the horrors of war with contemporaneous American culture caught in refrains from 'The Good Ship Lollipop' and 'Chattanooga Choo Choo'.
Lola's return to Vienna prompts a song about collaborators 'Frau Schmidt', a brilliant pastiche of musical styles played out before an impresario 'Herr Director' and a sardonic send-up of 'Thank God for Hollywood' sung to Mozart's Piano Sonata in C major.