Poster of Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca is a German-language musical based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. It was written by Michael Kunze (book and lyrics) and Sylvester Levay (music), the authors of the musicals Elisabeth, Mozart! and Marie Antoinette. The plot, which adheres closely to the original novel, revolves around wealthy Maxim DeWinter, his naïve new wife, and Mrs. Danvers, the manipulative housekeeper of DeWinter's Cornish estate Manderley. Mrs. Danvers resents the new wife's intrusion and persuades the new wife that she is an unworthy replacement for the first Mrs. DeWinter, the glamorous and mysterious Rebecca, who perished in a drowning accident. The new Mrs. DeWinter struggles to find her identity and take control of her life among the shadows left by Rebecca.
As a teenager, Michael Kunze had read Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca. In the 1990s, he re-read it and decided that the story would make a good musical. He traveled to Cornwall, England, to find du Maurier's son in an attempt to obtain the rights to musicalize the work, which had been denied to other librettists. Attending a performance of Kunze's long-running 1992 musical Elisabeth in Vienna persuaded du Maurier's son that the novel would be in good hands with Kunze and his musical partner Sylvester Levay.
Writing the libretto took Kunze nearly two years, and Levay took another two years to compose the music. A 2003 demo recording in English was made, with Pia Douwes as Mrs. Danvers, Maike Boerdam as "I" and Uwe Kröger as Maxim de Winter. Workshops were also presented in Essen and Vienna.
Kunze and Levay formed a collaboration with American director Francesca Zambello and English set designer Peter J. Davison. In early 2005, they decided to launch the musical in Vienna, Austria, with the production company Vereinigte Bühnen Wien, which had previously produced Kunze's musicals Elisabeth, Tanz der Vampire (Dance of the Vampires), and Mozart!.
A young woman, Ich, dreamily walks among "shadows"; in the background, Manderley appears destroyed by fire ("Ich hab getraumt von Manderley"). Ich reveals her "paid companion" clothes, as she is transported to a 1930s hotel in Monte Carlo. Her employer is a wealthy American, Mrs. Van Hopper ("Du wirst niemals eine Lady"). Widowed, aristocratic Maxim de Winter enters, as the hotel guests gossip ("Er verlor unerwartet seine Frau, Rebecca"). In the dramatic hills near Monte Carlo, Maxim kisses Ich; the inexperienced girl is swept off her feet by his worldly charm. Back in the hotel, Ich is Told that she is to go back New York. She reflects on the memories she shared with Maxim. ("Zeit in einer Flashe") Moments later, Maxim comes in and asks Ich to marry him.
Maxim and Ich honeymoon in Italy and then drive up to his stately Cornwall estate, Manderley. The servants enter and talk about what they'd think their new mistress will be like. ("Die neue Mrs. de Winter"). The haughty Mrs. Danvers oversees the well-organized servants; she is cold and hostile to Ich. Later, in the morning room, Mrs. Danvers is alone lamenting about Maxim's first wife, Rebecca ("Sie ergibt sich nicht"). Ich comes in and accidentally breaks a statue of Cupid; she is frightened. Mrs. Danvers fears that she is an unworthy replacement for the beautiful, elegant and mysterious Rebecca. Maxim's sister Beatrice and her husband Giles arrive at Manderley to meet Ich. The three get along well and are in a happy mood ("Die lieben verwandten"). In the library, Ich becomes tipsy and Mrs. Danvers comes in to tell Maxim that the Cupid is broken. Ich admits to doing it which causes a fight between Maxim and Ich ("Bist du glücklich - Bist du böse"). At night, Ich and Maxim reflect on how they are seeking solace in each other ("Hilf mir durch die Nacht"). At her house, Beatrice reflects on her affection for her brother and how he has changed in the past year ("Was ist nur los mit ihm"). In Rebecca's room, Rebecca's cousin Jack Favell tries Mrs. Danvers' patience ("Sie war gewohnt geliebt zu werden"), arguing about Rebecca's possessions and the fact that Rebecca "loved him" and that he was "her favorite cousin". Ich comes in and meets Favell who tells her not to tell Maxim he was at Manderley. Ich and Mrs. Danvers discuss an upcoming masked ball and Danvers suggests Ich wear a dress that copies a portrait of one of Maxim's ancestors. Unbeknownst to Ich this was a part of Mrs. Danvers's plan to humiliate her. Then, in worshipful terms, Mrs. Danvers tells Ich about Maxim's first wife, Rebecca, who drowned while sailing on Maxim's sailboat a year earlier.
Members of an elite golf club gossip about Maxim and his new wife ("Wir sind British"). Later, Ben, a mentally handicapped man, is in the boat house ("Sie's fort") and meets Ich. He rambles about how she is better than Rebecca until Maxim returns and finds that Ich is near the boathouse. This causes Maxim to fly into a rage due to his dark memories ("Gott, warum"). Frank Crawley is in his office discussing the upcoming ball as well as the late Rebecca with Ich. He reassures her that she doesn't need to be just like Rebecca to gain Maxim's love and the respect of society ("Ehrlichkeit und vertrauen"). Later at the ball, everyone is waltzing ("Der Ball von Manderley"). Mrs. Van Hopper enters ("I'm an American Woman"). Ich is in her room in the dress Mrs. Danvers suggested she wear. She hopes to impress the guests as well as Maxim ("Heut' nacht verzauber' ich die Welt"). She emerges and begins to descend the staircase to the party. The guests froze in horror realizing that the dress Ich is wearing is the same one Rebecca had worn at last years ball. Maxim bursts into fury and Ich runs upstairs crying. Mrs. Danvers looks on malevolently.
At night, Ich stands outside Rebecca's room hoping to sort out the previous night's accident, while Mrs. Danvers is inside the room ("Und das, und das, und das"). Mrs. Danvers makes Ich uncomfortable and she runs off when Mrs. Danvers menaces her ("Tu nicht, was sie empört!" ... "Nur ein schritt"). At the seaside, the people of Cornwall find the remains of a shipwreck and with it, Rebecca's boat with her body inside the cabin("Flotsam and Jetsam"). Ich runs to the boat house and sees Ben and a disheveled, Maxim, who had gone to help the sailors. He tells Ich that Rebecca was a manipulative and deceitful person and that he never loved her, in fact he hated her. He also tells her that he confronted Rebecca about her having multiple affairs and an altercation between the two ensued causing Maxim to snap and push Rebecca, who then hit her head and died from a concussion. He hadhid the body in the boat in a fit of panic. ("Now she has returned" ... "No smile was ever so cold"). Maxim is suspected of having killed Rebecca, and an investigation is taking place. The next morning in the house, Beatrice is in a panic about the hearing but notices how confident Ich has become and compliments her on it (Die Stärker Einer Frau). Ich, having had enough of being treated like dirt by Mrs. Danvers, confronts her and makes some changes in the house's decor, getting rid of all of Rebecca's items ("Mrs. de Winter bin Ich"). Ich is now a confident woman; when she breaks the Cupid statue again, she is no longer frightened.
At a nearby courtroom a hearing takes place, and Maxim and Horridge are at odds. Ich faints, and everyone returns to Manderley. Danvers and Favell arrive at Manderley and go to the library. Mrs. Danvers leaves and Favell remains on the library ("Eine Hand wäscht die andre"). Frank and Ich try to get him to leave but to no avail. Favell tries to blackmail Maxim with a letter from Rebecca. He accuses Maxim of murdering Rebecca but doesn't have enough proof so he calls Mrs. Danvers and asks for Rebecca's diary. It's found out that Rebecca had gone to see a man named Dr. Baker on the day she died. Favell assumes she was pregnant and Maxim killed her in a jealous rage because the nonexistent child wasn't his but no one knows the real reason. Ich stands by her husband and takes the initiative to find out why Rebecca visited her doctor. Ich decides to go London to see Dr. Baker while Maxim is ordered to stay at Manderley until the truth is found out. The servants and Mrs. Danvers comment on the situation ("Sie fuhr'n um acht"). Maxim picks up a phone call from Ich. It turns out that Rebecca was terminally ill with a form of cancer. It seems likely that she instigated her own death by provoking Maxim because she did not want to die a slow and painful death and would rather die quickly. Mrs. Danvers overhears and learns that Rebecca was going to die of cancer.
After this liberating news, Maxim can finally remove the picture of Rebecca from Manderley and give his undivided love to his new wife. Maxim picks up Ich at the train station in Cornwall, and they kiss passionately ("Jenseits der Nacht"). But far away there is a red glow in the sky. Manderley is burning! Maxim and Ich hurry home as the servants run around with buckets of water ("Feuer, feuer, Manderley in Flammen!"). Mrs. Danvers stands inside the house at the top of the staircase dressed in Rebecca's nightgown, holding a candelabra in her hand as the flames consume Manderley. Maxim and Ich arrive, and Frank runs towards them. Inside, Danvers inclines the candles to the stairway handrail and sets it on fire. The house collapses and Mrs. Danvers perishes in the flames together with her memories of Rebecca.
Ich walks dreamily in darkness ("Ich hab getraumt von Manderley" (reprise)). Everyone except Maxim is standing among Manderley's ruins, but now the shadows have faces. Under a bright blue sky, Maxim holds his hand out to Ich who runs to him, and they kiss.
Rebecca had its world premiere at the Raimund Theater in Vienna, in German, in September 2006, "where it played to sold-out houses totaling more than three years". It was directed by Zambello and choreographed by Denni L. Sayers, with production design by Davison, with costumes by Birgit Hutter and lighting by Andrew Voller. The cast starred Wietske van Tongeren as "Ich" ("I"), Uwe Kröger as Maxim and Susan Rigvava-Dumas as Mrs. Danvers.
Variety magazine considered the Vienna production a "dream of a show", adding:
Reviewing the Vienna production on a night when an understudy was playing the protagonist "I", the critic of The Times, Benedict Nightingale, praised the fidelity of the plot to du Maurier's original and rated the staging "up to the most lavish West End visual standards. ... Only the shipwreck that leads to the discovery of Rebecca's body disappoints - and only a gallumphingly Wodehousean golfing number (Wir Sind Britisch) needs excising." Nightingale judged the ending of the musical "forgivably ... a bit more upbeat than the novel's." He found the dancing dull and the music "seldom harsh or imaginative enough" despite "a terrific central song, a soaring, grieving tribute" to Rebecca by "Susan Rigvava Dumas's mesmeric Danvers". He said of Kröger's Max, "though white-hot at moments of crisis, [he] hasn't quite the mix of brooding inwardness and outer sang froid the character needs."
Rebecca was then produced at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo, opening on April 6, 2008. Later there was a 2010 production and 2018-19 10th anniversary production. In 2010 a studio recording of Japanese Cast was released .
The musical was performed in Helsinki, Finland, at the Helsingin kaupunginteatteri (Helsinki City Theatre) from August 28, 2008 to May 9, 2009. as well as in Kouvola, Finland, at the Kouvolan Teatteri, 11. September 2010.Rebecca played in Budapest, Hungary, on 18 and 19 March 2010 (and later in repertory).
In 2009, Ben Sprecher co-produced two English-language readings of Rebecca, hoping to mount a London West End production. In October 2009, a reading featured Sierra Boggess as "I", Brent Barrett as Maxim and Pia Douwes as Mrs. Danvers. The English-language book was written by Christopher Hampton in collaboration with Kunze.
A reading took place on March 18, 2011 in New York, directed by Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello. The cast featured Boggess as "I", Hugh Panaro as Maxim, Carolee Carmello as Mrs. Danvers and James Stacy Barbour as Jack Favell. A Broadway production of the musical was announced twice during 2012, to be co-directed by Blakemore and Zambello. However, the producers cancelled both times after financing for the production fell through, even though there were $1 million in advance ticket sales. In October 2012, The New York Times reported that four of the "investors" in the proposed Broadway production never existed. Following criminal investigations by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan, the middleman who fabricated the fictitious investors, and received $60,000 in fees, was arrested and charged with fraud. In January 2013, producer Ben Sprecher told an interviewer that he hoped to mount the show on Broadway later in 2013. Although after completing an investigation the Securities and Exchange Commission pursued no action against Sprecher and his partner, the producers were unable to raise enough funding for a 2014 Broadway opening. On April 24, 2017, during a trial concerning the musical, it was announced that Sprecher and Louise Forlenza had lost the rights to produce the show, and, therefore, the show will not be pursuing a Broadway run.
Rebecca premiered in Korea on January 2013, and was met with both critical and commercial success. The cast included Yoo Jun-sang, Ryu Jung-han, and Oh Man-seok as Maxim, Lim Hye-young and Kim Bo-kyung as "I", and Ock Joo-hyun and Shin Young-sook as Mrs. Danvers. In the 2013 7th Annual Musical Awards, the production won 5 awards, with Ock Joo-hyun as the Best Featured Actress, Robert Johanson as the Best Director, Jung Seung-Ho as the Best Scenic Designer, Jack Mehler as the Best Lighting Designer, and Kim Ji-Hyeon as the Best Sound Designer.Composer Michael Cunche said Korean performances are the best.
|I||Wietske van Tongeren|
|Maxim de Winter||Uwe Kröger|
|Mrs. Danvers||Susan Rigvava-Dumas|
|Jack Favell||Carsten Lepper|
|Frank Crawley||André Bauer|
|Beatrice de Winter||Kerstin Ibald|
|Mrs. Van Hopper||Carin Filip?i?|
This list includes a literal translation of the German song titles into English
¥-Written for the 2010 Japan production and used in all productions afterwards
^-Shortened for the Stuttgart production
The original Vienna cast recording, Rebecca - Das Cast Album, a studio recording, was released on 24 November 2006. It has 22 tracks. It peaked number 18 on the Ö3 Austria Top 75 album chart.
One of the songs from the show, "The Power of a Woman in Love", was released in English, as a single sung by Gloria Gaynor, prior to the Viennese premiere.
Rebecca - Gesamtaufnahme Live (Rebecca - Complete Recording Live) was recorded on 6 and 7 June 2007. The 2-CD live recording was released on 19 October 2007. Its 44 tracks include the entire production, including all spoken dialogue and songs. The recording also includes a bonus track: Marika Lichter, who performed Mrs. Van Hopper from the summer of 2007 through the end of 2007, singing "I'm an American Woman".
Rebecca - Original Japanese Cast Recording was released on March 5 of 2010. The CD has 10 tracks, including "Zauberhaft Natürlich", which was written for this production.
Rebecca - Original Hungarian Cast Recording was released on May 22, 2010. It includes 16 tracks.
Rebecca - Gesamtaufnahme Live was recorded in 2012, this time with the Stuttgart cast featuring Valerie Link as "Ich", Jan Amman as Maxim de Winter, Pia Douwes as Mrs. Danvers, and Kerstin Ibald reprising her role as Beatrice