Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The Yiddish Folks Theatre
189 Second Avenue, New York, NY
This production opened on September 28, 1935.

by Louis Freiman, music by Joseph Rumshinsky


This very positive review of this production at the Yiddish Folks Theatre was written by Hillel Rogoff, and was first published in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on October 11, 1935.

"Fishl der gerotener," the play with which the "Folks Theatre" opened the new season, is listed as a "musical operetta de luxe" on the program, and this is not an exaggeration. It is really something extraordinary. It's been a long, long time since I've had such a good time at a show. In the space of the three hours of the production, there is not a single moment of boredom. Everything in the production is first-class: the music, the acting, and the singing. The chorus, the sets, and Rumshinsky's new feature -- the women's orchestra.

I am convinced that the two main reasons why the production is so pleasant is that each performer adapts to their role, and every performer has an opportunity to act as he is able to and as he [or she] can.  The accursed "star system," which so often ruins good plays in the Yiddish theatre, is not felt in this production. I do not know who deserves the credit for this, but it is hoped that the Folks Theatre will continue to go in this direction, and that other Yiddish theatres will take note of this and follow its example.

"Fishl der gerotener" is from those [types of] operettas in which the libretto, the action is of minor importance. Here the libretto serves only as a means for the music composer to create for everyone of the players a special sort of song and melody. The libretto also is not the opportunity for each actor to perform in a suitable role. The main thing in the production is the music and the acting and steps of the performer.

It revolves around two friends who in the childhood years loved a young girl, Panitshka, in the old country, in Wyszkow. Now they are both in America. One of them, Fishl, never forgot the girl. He writes to her and collects money so he can bring her to America and marry her. The second, Berl, has had that girl out of his mind for a long time.

The complication arises when Fishl sends Panitskha an image of Berl as his own. He does this because he, Fishl, isn't particularly good-looking, and he is afraid that if she sees his photograph she will not want to come to America. When she arrives she is brought to Berl's house, and she thinks that Berl is her beloved Fishl, who had sent for her. The mistake could have been corrected, but a new trouble is created. Berl falls in love with Panitshka, and he tells Fishl that he should wait and not tell her the truth so suddenly. Fishl waits for his romance with Panitshka. When she finally learns the truth, it is already too late. Fishl must sadly leave his beloved to his friend Berl.

The play begins with a scene in a cheder (school for children), in the town of Wyszkow. Fishl, Berl and Pantitshka are then still small children of ten years old. The roles indeed were played by three child actors: Frankie Schechtman, Vickie Marcus, and Shirley Shulman. The scene is one of the most beautiful and lovely in the entire play. All three children can play theatre, and they are also fine singers. The song is: "Es hoypt zikh an mit dikh un lazt zikh oys mit dikh (It Starts With You and Leaves With You)," which is the leit-motif of the play, and it is repeated later in adulthood. The song is one of the main "hits" of the production. It is understood that it is mainly because of that theory, it is heartfelt and beautiful, but the three children help much with it, so that the "song" may be exceptional. The entire first scene, belongs to them, to the children, and they make the scene a great success.

The role of the adult Fishl is played by Menasha Skulnik, and I forgot to say that he strongly stands out. He is one of our best comics. He also possesses a special talent to sing lyrics comically. In the play Rumshinsky provides two songs that take the house by storm. One of the songs, "Dos zelbe fun dikh tsu heren (The Same For You to Hear [?])," I think is one of the most successful in the Yiddish theatre. Not only is the melody beautiful, but the lyrics by the author of every line in the song, the well-known Isidore Lillian is too.

The audience took more to the second song that Skulnik sang, "Men darf es treyen (One Must Try It)," although I think the former is much better. But this is a matter of taste.

Irving Grossman plays the role of Fishl's friend, Berl. He also excels with his singing and with his fine action on the stage.

A great hit was made by the "song-and-dance team," Diana Goldberg and Pesach'ke Burstein. I believe that they are now the most pleasing "comedy team" on the Yiddish stage. They sing and dance both individually and together, and the public will enjoy them.

And a hit also was made with Ola Lilith in the role of the adult Pantitshka. She stands out with her attractive face and graceful figure. She dances fine and sings beautifully. Her two songs, "Zog, meyn hartz (Speak, My Heart)," and "Nyu york (New York)," evoked a storm of applause.

The chorus consists almost entirely of beautiful young girls and good dancers. The women's orchestra also makes a very good impression. All in all the operetta succeeds. Rumshinsky deserves a great compliment for his music, and Skulnik -- for the production. The smaller roles were performed by Leib Kadison, Nathan Parnes, Sarah Skulnik, Frances Weintraub, Isidore Lipinsky and Bennie Zeidman.






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