Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The Second Avenue Theatre
35-37 Second Avenue, NY, NY
This production opened 0n March 24, 1933

(Jewish Melody)

by Abrham Blum, music by Herman Wohl.
review by Lazar Fogelman, published on April 7, 1933


It's rare these days for a Yiddish operetta to be so pious, so pure as Abraham Blum's "Jewish Melody," which now is playing in the Second Avenue Theatre. It is filled with "Jewishness [Yidishkayt]" just like a homey cholent. It talks about Jewishness: Hebrew verses [are recited by] not only Leon Blank, who plays an old cantor, and not only  by Aaron Lebedeff, who is, in contrast, a young bootlegger, but also by Lucy Levine, the cantor's young daughter. It's all there in one place, this "Pintele Yid," in spite of Hitler.

Already in the first scene we are led into a shul, and indeed in the middle of an exam that is not recited. It is about dismissing the old cantor, who some "members" of the shul want to replace with a modern cantor. The cantor, incidentally, has a young and beautiful child Rukhel'e, who helps out.The old cantor, who is considered to be resigning, is of course in trouble. Thanks to the young rich bootlegger, who likes to sing with his mother, the old cantor remains in his former position. 

Meanwhile, the bootlegger is in love with Rukhel'e, the cantor's daughter, and there is already a match made betwen them, as well as between the cantor, the widow, and the bootlegger's mother, who is also a widow.

It is still good, it seems, however the lawyer is a devil and a "member" of the shul, and he is also in love with Rukhel'e, although he already has a bride. The lawyer denounces the bootlegger and puts him in prison just at the moment when the latter has decided to marry Rukhel'e. It goes on that the young bootlegger, who had chosen to marry Rukhel'e, has repented and became pious, and because of this, should, perhaps, be removed from the court in a few years.

The young lawyer, who had denounced the bootlegger, makes an effort to free him, thinking of Rukhel'e. A silent word that she will therefore not marry her husband, but a Jew with the lawyer.

You are probably thinking that Rukhel'e married the freed bootlegger, and the lawyer, the devotee, got a nasty look from both the bootlegger and the girl who was his bride.

In order to make the bootlegger kosher for the public, the author presents him as a happy young man, in which a Jewish heart truly beats. He even becomes a serious bal-tsuvah under the influence of the cantor and out of love for the cantor's grandson. The lawyer, in contrast, is portrayed as a dangerous person.

We see for ourselves quite a bit of strong melodramatic stuff. And if it weren't for the side of a cheerful pair from the bootlegger's uncle with his wife, it would be quite dark on the heart. However, the pair brings in humor and playfulness, and this is saved by the overly strained seriousness of the operetta.

The cheerful couple, Itzik Feld and Annie Thomashefsky, truly play very well. Feld doesn't have any big opportunities here, but he has an ability to elevate every small role and to attract the attention of the audience with it. His humor is unique, a noble person. He uses measured and restrained movements, he does not exaggerate, and there is a certain rhythm and grace in all his playing.

Annie Thomashefsky shows a lively temperament, and on the stage she feels like a fish out of water.

The young bootlegger, the happy-go-lucky boy, even though he was alone, was played by the happy-go-lucky Aaron Lebedeff, and about Lebedeff you don't have to talk much about him. He is always the same Lebedeff who creates with his actions a certain hominess on the stage and in the theatre.

And the young Rukhel'e, the heroine of the story, is played by Lucy Levine, who has, as always, stood out with her beautiful appearance, with her fine manners on the stage, and with her not very strong, but entirely outstanding voice.

Leon Blank faithfully delivered the figure of an old cantor. He is especially fully impressive in the quiet scenes with the bootlegger's mother, with whom he is no match. On a delicate matter here he conveys the self-restraint and shyness with which the old widower gives the widow a hint about his warm relationship to her. Where he conveys the nonsensical speech with half gestures, I like him much more than in stormy, strongly dramatic moments. This clearly shows a fine inner acting.

Nadia Dranova, in the role of the bootlegger's mother, maintains herself entirely naturally. However, she seems a bit too young for the part of a mother of that adolescent son, as her Solly.

An exceptional impression is made by the acting of Paula Klida. The bride of the traitor lawyer.

The lawyer, who is interesting and political, is played by Sam Gertler, He has created a living type of a dangerous spoiled young man, who is not at all picky about means, where he wants to achieve any goal.

Aside, these did not have any significant roles: Vera Lubov, Peter Graf, Sally Schorr and Max Rosenblatt. They performed their roles quite smoothly.

Herman Whol's music is in the spirit of the operetta. It is Yiddish-like and sentimental.





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