Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The Rolland Theatre
(later the Parkway Theatre)
1768 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn, NY
Opened on October 10, 1932.



by Louis Freiman, music by Joseph Rumshinsky, words by Isidore Lillian



Seated, right to left:

Bertha Hart, Diana Goldberg, Betty Simonoff, Louis Freiman (playwright), Joseph Rumshinsky (composer), Michal Michalesko, Berta Gerstin, Betty Budanov, Pauline Hoffman and Chana Levine.

Standing, right to left:

Dave Lubritsky, Israel Mandel, Meir Schwartz, Yudl Dubinsky, Vladimir Krasnoff (dance), Boris Auerbach, Irving Honigman and Harry Hochstein.


The manager of the theatre was William Rolland, who build this theatre that bore his name.

photo, right: Yiddish actor Michal Michalesko



Review from the Yiddish Forward, Friday, October 14, 1932, by L. Fogelman.


"The Song of Israel" by Louis Freiman, with music by Joseph Rumshinsky, directed by Michal Michalesko.

The best that is present in Freiman's operetta, "The Song of Israel," which was presented in the Rolland Theatre, is Rumshinsky's moving music and Krasnoff's dance.

In Rumshinsky's heartfelt melodies from the operetta the breath of the East is felt; it feels like that longing, half-sad and half-passionate spirit that always fascinates us in Oriental songs, in the dreamed songs of the Eastern people. and that spirit is adapted to the new operetta, where almost all of the images and scenes occur in Palestine.

A pleasant impression is also made by the lively dancing, which was mostly rightly adapted for the general spirit of the offering. Both the music, as well as the dance, leave behind a certain resonance of something far away and is at the same time closer to the world, and after all, music and dance are the most important thing in an operetta.

Therefore, one can not be very enthusiastic about the dramatic content of the operetta. The drama itself does not create the same mood as the music and the dances, because the author is off on the beaten path, although he has renewed his drama a bit with what he brought to Palestine, but he has not managed to renew it with an original dramatic content, with scenes and images of new interesting types and events. He brought to Palestine, the old, well-known plan of an escaped, neglected son, whom the elders search for all over the world, and of a series of artificially collected scenes, where the sting can be seen.

Betty Simonoff, in a scene from "The Song of Israel"



A young Russian intelligentsia, Grisha, leaves his Christian home in Russia and becomes converted into a legionnaire commandant of Jews in Tel Aviv, under a Jewish name Ben-Israel; a grandfather, a colonist, a young girl also comes to visit, Lili, who in New York becomes chosen as "Queen Esther." With the "Queen Esther" there also comes a friend, Tootsie, with her beloved Jerry, a newspaper reporter. As you might imagine, probably on your own, a love flares up between the gentile Ben-Israel and the Jewish Lili; but with the assistance of the reporter, the story becomes uncovered, that the commandant in truth is a son of Christian parents. The parents are also coming to Tel Aviv (from all over the world, everyone is coming together right in this colonist's house), and it turns out that the old colonist's wife and Grisha's mother are sisters, and that Grisha's parents are converted Jews. Implanted are also a love of an Arab woman for Ben-Israel, and for her lover, an Arab, who burns with hatred towards Jews, and with jealousy to the Jewish commandant.

 This is the dramatic plan around which revolves all of the scenes of the operetta. Here the writer has for himself a brilliant opportunity to give interesting images and types of Palestinian-Yiddish  and Arabic life; but he missed the opportunity, as if out-of-hand, and is off on the old, well-known road.

Hence we have in the new operetta, "Yiddishkayt" to a fuller extent. Here you find an arun kodesh [holy ark], and here you even hear a quartet that sings a special hymn of praise to a Jewish kugel [casserole]. For lovers of such a kind of Jewish content in an operetta, "The Song of Israel" is literally a treasure.

The best impression was made by the beautiful musical melodies, and also the airy and light dance numbers that were neatly performed by a dozen young choristers.

The role of the young commandant, the converted, idealistic Ben Israel, is played by Michal Michalesko, who also directed the entire operetta. Both in his acting, as well as in the direction, he has shown the needed stage experience and abilities.

Betty Simonoff was impressive in the role of the amorous Arab woman, Ratmia. It goes without saying, I think, that she sang for hours, vigorously and pleasantly, because she already had with us the genuinely earned reputation as being of one of the best songstresses on the Yiddish stage. Recently, however, she also developed her dramatic abilities, and she carried out the role of the Arab woman in a lively, temperamental manner.

Unfortunately, one cannot say that about Betty Budanov in the role of Lili. She is entirely weak, both in her acting, as well as in her singing. Her "Queen Esther," which she plays, lacks life.

At the same time, the young, unknown Diana Goldberg in the role of Tootsie, Lili's friend, pleasantly surprised me. She manifests many skills and temperament in her acting. She's mobile as quicksilver, playful and entertaining -- true, she has a tendency to overdo it, to slightly exceed the measure of her power, but under good direction she may seem to me to develop into one of our best soubrettes. It's already the beginning of the current theatre season, and it's with pleasure to notice some new young forces that were hitherto unknown to us: this is Miriam Kressyn at the Lyric Theatre, and today Diana Goldberg in the Rolland Theatre.

The repertoire is performed by Dave Lubritsky with impetus, and with the movements of a traveling salesman, but not for a repertoire.

Yudl Dubinsky, in the role of the old colonist, has had little to play; and it is really a shame:  it's really a pity that such a capable dramatic actor could and should have been used much more than on a song about kugel. However, an operetta generally is not an appropriate opportunity for his abilities.

Bertha Hart played the role of his wife in a sympathetic way.

The jealous and evil Arab was played by Boris Auerbach with a large, and with the movements of a Mephistopheles.

The roles of a proud, older parlor artist, and a female painter, were played naturally by Irving Honigman and Pauline Hoffman.

There was also the role of a newspaper man played by Israel Mandel.

The general impression of the new operetta in the Rolland Theatre is a pleasant one. It is not in vain that the audience accepts it.






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