Grand Hotel, The Musical
by Luther Davis
Scenes and Musical Numbers
"This is das leben...la vita...la vie, the life for me"
Lyric from "Grand Hotel"
I've recently been asked why I would devote eighteen months of my life to a ninety-minute musical that is scheduled to run for only twenty-five performances. Chances are I wouldn't have if, on September 11th, I hadn't found myself sitting with my wife, Hope, watching the Twin Towers burn through the window of a jet that had suddenly aborted its takeoff at Kennedy Airport. Among the lessons we all learned on that tragic day is that life indeed is fragile, that we owe it to ourselves to live each day fully, and that acquitting oneself with love and honor may be the most precious legacy of all. These are the themes that attracted me to "Grand Hotel." It is a stirring piece about a desperate group of characters who must choose whether to embrace life or death, honor or disgrace, love or loss.
Stories about seizing the day have been told since time immemorial but to my mind, never as theatrically as in this adaptation of Vicki Baum's classic novel. For one, it's set in the Berlin of 1928, a year on the cusp of great historical change; for another, it's in a grand hotel, a venue in which the possibilities for romance and conflict are glamorously heightened. This grand hotel is a microcosm of dreams and desires, filled with people dashing from one distraction to another, dancing blithely on the lip of a volcano.
What really grabbed me, though, was the play's unlikely hero: Otto Kringelein, the terminally-ill, provincial bookkeeper who comes to the Grand Hotel in order, as he puts it, "to know that I once was here." On his journey he meets an impoverished, opportunistic baron, an aging ballerina, a corrupt businessman, a cynical doctor, and a young ingénue dreaming of Hollywood stardom (ah yes, Hollywood, the seductive siren even back then).
Why is Otto my hero? Because he dares to believe in life, even as it slips away. Otto's hope is a reproach to the cynic in us, all too ready to dismiss our existence as meaningless. Cynicism is easy. It asks very little, least of all change. Hope and faith, particularly in the face of formidable odds, are much harder to muster. They demand a certain courage and heart. In our lifetime, those two traits will long be measured against the standards set on September 11th. But as we ask ourselves how we might have behaved on that day faced with the same challenges, Otto and his friends offer another answer: Sometimes the simplest act of heroism we can perform is to wake up in the morning and embrace life in all its blessed possibilities.
Russell Adcock, LA Dance Experience, Bardwell's on the Boulevard,Derek Bjornsen, A Noise Within, Brad Brown, Michael Cabler, California State University Northridge,Department of Theater, Mortimer and Ruth Caplin, The City of Burbank, The Colony Board of Trustees, Luther Davis, Laura Dwan, Stephanie Ferrell, Chris Garr, Dan Gates, Harold Huttus, Stacie Iverson, Demetrio James, Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, Paul Marius, Robert E. Moore III, Amy V. Morse, George and LeAnne Neilson, Helaine and Ira Nelson, Todd Nielsen, Patrick Pacheco, Salvador Palacios, Bill Shaw, San Gabriel Civic Auditorium. Shoolery Design, Inc. (Mark Shoolery, Judy Kemper, Jason Lindeman, Ricky Gae, Chris Bartolini,Sergio Grisanti, Ethan Archer, Rita Valencia, Marco Blanco, Anna Hudson, Laurie Bloom, Jill Green, Abbi Russal), Clayton Stang, Ali Tavakoli, Elegance Shoes, Wadler Data Systems, Tonni Williams, Lee Wochner, CounterIntuity