— There’s a phenomenon of people with significant savings and financial resources — and no offspring to leave them to — who upon being diagnosed with an incurable, fatal disease, start blowing their money. Extravagant travel, the finest hotel rooms, expensive meals. You can’t take it with you, right?
That idea pervades the 1989 musical Grand Hotel, based on a Vicki Baum novel Menschen im Hotel and the 1932 movie Grand Hotel with Greta Garbo and John Barrymore.
It’s 1928 Berlin and the American stock market hasn’t crashed yet and the real threat of the Nazis rise to power hasn’t been fully discovered . Those are facts that we know now, and the high-living of the guests at the opulent hotel is taken with the grain of salt that good times don’t last long.
Although it premiered in the late 1980s, the musical — with music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest and additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeston — feels like a grand work of decades earlier, when the hope for grand orchestrations with large orchestras was still in sight.
With original direction and choreography by Texas native Tommy Tune (who brought in Yeston to expand on the original work from Wright and Forrest), it’s a glorious, rich musical that’s perfect for the Lyric Stage treatment.
With a 32-member orchestra, music director Jay Dias and director/choreographer Len Pfluger (working from Tune’s staging and orchestrations by Peter Matz and vocal arrangements by Jack Lee), Lyric’s production deserves every superlative that can be heaped on it.
Under the two-story frame of John Farrell’s set (originally designed for the Pittsurgh Civic Light Opera), simple gold-gilded chairs are used throughout to tell the intermingling stories of these guests, with the ensemble sitting around the edges even when they’re not in the action, watching as voyeurs. Col. Doctor Otternschlag (James Williams) sets up the story as the ghosts of the guests appear and the hotel lights up.
Flaemmchen (Texas Christian University student Taylor Quick) is a typist with stars in her eyes. Front desk worker Erik (TCU alum Anthony Fortino) is working hard for his sick wife and get get time off.
The Jimmys (Mark Gerrard Powers and Ivan Jones) are African-American entertainers hoping for notice. Felix von Gaigern (Christopher J. Deaton) is a handsome and broke Baron who has a debt to pay off and receives threats through a Chauffeur (Mark Oristano), and then unexpectedly falls for a fading and wealthy ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya (Mary-Margaret Pyeatt).
Then there’s Otto Kringelein (Andy Baldwin), a dying rich man given a new lease on life through unexpected sources.
Deaton does his best work here, loosening up for a character facing dire consequences; and Quick is a terrific find, bringing spunk and pathos to her character. It’s a solid ensemble all around, but Baldwin is the standout — he’s been praised for his physical comedy prowess, but here he transforms from the shrunken man to a rubbery and agile dancer in a stunning second act dance number featuring him and Deaton.
The music constantly underscores the action, and rises to numerous big moments with lush strings in big ballads and fanciful reeds and brass in fun, upbeat numbers, with Dias adjusting the dynamics perfectly throughout. Lyric has given us some highly memorable full-orchestra revivals of musicals both popular and rare over the years, and this might be its finest resurrection to date.
8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Irving Arts Center, Carpenter Performance Hall, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving