Lost in the Stars is a 1949 musical with book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson and music by Kurt Weill, based on the novel Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) by Alan Paton (1903-1988). The original production opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre on October 30, 1949 and closed on July 1, 1950 after 273 performances. The original cast included Todd Duncan and Inez Matthews.
Weill was influenced by African American musical idioms through his use of spiritual melodies, blues and jazz.
In his opening-night review, New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson said that Maxwell Anderson had encountered "obvious difficulty" in transforming "so thoroughly a work of literary art" into theatre, and was sometimes "skimming and literal where the novel is rich and allusive." He suggested that people might not fully appreciate the play if they were unfamiliar with the novel. He praised Anderson's "taste and integrity" and described the last scene as "profoundly moving." Robert Garland, writing in the Journal American, similarly commented that "the beauty and simplicity of Paton's book infrequently comes through."
In contrast, Atkinson felt that the music positively added to the experience of the novel: "here the theatre has come bearing its most memorable gifts. Mr. Weill has given the theatre some fine scores, but... it is difficult to remember anything out of his portfolio as eloquent as this richly orchestrated singing music.... [It is] overflowing with the same compassion that Mr. Paton brought to his novel.... The music is deep, dramatic, and beautiful."
The title song "Lost in the Stars" enjoyed a measure of popular success, and versions of it were recorded by Anita O'Day, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and many others. The words, which in the musical are those of the minister Stephen Kumalo at the depth of his desperation, tell how God once "held all the stars in the palm of his hand" "and they ran through his fingers like grains of sand, and one little star fell alone." Kumalo says that God sought and found the little lost star and "stated and promised he'd take special care so it wouldn't get lost again." But at times he thinks that God has forgotten his promise and that "we're lost out here in the stars."
Lost in the Stars invites comparison with Porgy and Bess; both were originally produced by Rouben Mamoulian, and both featured Todd Duncan in the leading role.
The musical was adapted for the screen in 1974 and released as part of the American Film Theatre series.