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The following review, written by D. Kaplan,
was first printed in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on October
27, 1933. Here it is:
"Happy Days" is the name of the musical comedy that now is being put on at the Prospect Theatre in the Bronx. Why it is called "Happy Days" is not so easy to say when we see the contents of the comedy. Everywhere this a beautiful name that looks very different in a time of crisis, when the mood is depressed and the heart is not so cheerful.
However, it must be added that the performance is really cheerful -- very cheerful, pleasant, funny and entertaining. This in itself is not a great right to use such a name.
The thing is a light, playful, kind of musical comedy, which does not pretend to be serious or novel, but seeks to give the audience a moment of pleasure, fun, laughter, dance and song. And jesters, dancers and singers such as Tillie Rabinowitz, Jacob Wexler, Bella Mysell, Gertrude Bulman et al, Julius Nathanson, they deliver the goodies, handing out the naughty dancing and singing goods.
And the audience is quite tastefully amused. The best proof -- the clapping hands, the applause that pervade the theatre at all times.
Some scenes are so playful, good-natured and funny, and the actors themselves, it seems, amuse themselves, just like the audience, and laugh at the comedy and their antics, too. Something like they would have become at home, the story of a good brother, with the audience. The main star of the production, Julius Nathanson, feels at one point so comfortable (he feels very easy, light, free on stage, like a fish in water), that he turns to the audience and simply asks "Tell the truth, how do I like you?"
A storm of applause broke out.
He asks this question almost at the end of the production, when he has already decided to show what he can do. I saw that he was taking a strong stand with the audience. And this is quite understandable: He is handsome, lively and young, with many natural charms, dances well, sings very tastefully, and he plays and maintains himself on the stage like a true star in such productions. He also feels this too, he knows his worth, and he sees that he is being taken as the public's pet -- that no, he would not be willing to risk such a question.
* * *
As in every musical comedy, in "Happy Days" there is also a story, a "plot," on which the comic scenes, naughtiness, songs and dance are attached. The story, if you want to know, is in short:
A Brownsville synagogue wants to bring over a cantor from the old country, from the other side of the sea. They send a delegation. When the delegation arrives in the town, they see that he is a tshachototshner consumptive, and he shall not tarry for long. What do they do, do they have to bring back a cantor? Do they know how to find another cantor? They hear the son of a miller, Motke, a simple young man, singing a song to their taste. They decide to bring Motke over for their synagogue.
But it is not that easy. Without the necessary papers they can not bring him over to the Golden Land, unless Motke would want to travel under in that person's name. The delegates really want to do this, but Motke, a simple, not overbearing young man, is afraid of traveling under a false name. But he does go along with this. Do you know why?
Motke once was in love with a girl, Sonia, who also loved him deeply, but her father tore her away from him, because by his father, a handsome balebos, there would be no such shidukh with a lowly miller's son. Sonia is now in America, and through a delegate has sent a letter to Motke, that she still loves him and will never forget him.
So, he travels to America with the
Motke, disguised as a young cantor, with a beard and a moustache, sings a couple of Jewish melodies and prayers, and then he takes it off, so that Sonia's father catches them kissing. They soon tell the father the truth, and he takes Motke for a son-in-law.
* * *
The role of Motke is played by Julius Nathanson and, as it already has been said, Bella Mysell as Sonia, was already strong with the audience. She sings the main songs of the production. The two delegates are played by Jacob Wexler and Izidore Goldstein. Gertrude Bulman has the role of a young American wife, a happy flapper. This role is well-adapted for that gifted realistic character actress. Later, however, she proves this very well in her usual excellent manner.
Rebecca Weintraub, as Zelda, plays as always, especially sympathetic and warmly pleasant.
As usual, there are other role players: Boris Auerbach as Yankl; Peter Graf as Israel Yakov; Sam Gertler as Joseph; Katie Kaplan as Fania; Israel Mandel as Simkhe'le; and Louis Hyman as the rabbi.
The production has a chorus of beautiful, slim, young choristers who create joy to the eye. The dances are arranged by Josephine Earle. The lyrics were written by Chaim Tauber.
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