A Reason for Rejoicing: The Golden Bride Stands Under a Wedding Canopy for The Second Time This Year With the Same Irresistible Intended
By Myra Chanin
If you don’t believe that we’re living in the age of miracles, let me correct your convictions. Two theatrical productions The Golden Bride and Death of A Salesman performed entirely in Yiddish, a supposedly at death’s door language, received two 2016 Drama Desk Award Nominations each.
The Golden Bride 2015 also received rave reviews, then and now, in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Even better, The Golden Bride 2015 was such a critical and box office smash that Zalmen Mlotek, the guiding light of Yiddish culture at The National Yiddish Theater, has taken another chance on love and revived the revival! It’s being performed even as you read until August 28, 2016 in the National Yiddish Theatre’s new permanent home at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park, and the reviews of this production are equally great.
I loved The Golden Bride when I saw it last December, but this re-revival is even more splendid and joyful than the one I saw first. How come? Obviously the performers have more confidence in the material. Also returning cast members have had more rehearsal time to perfect their performances. As for cast changes because prior performers were not available, not to worry. You’ll be as hard pressed as I was to tell the old hands from the newbies.
Do you have to understand Yiddish to enjoy The Golden Bride? Do you have to speak Italian to appreciate La Traviata? I brought along a friend who spoke no Yiddish other than the words that even most Gentiles know — mench, shmuck, nosh and Oy vey! – and she reported that after the first few minutes she only glanced at the supertitle translations, because the expressions on the actors’ faces, their body movements and the ecstasy in their singing told her exactly what was going on.
The Golden Bride was a 1923 Second Avenue hit, thanks to Frieda Freiman’s charming libretto and a super-melodious score composed by “The Jewish Victor Herbert,” Joseph Rumshinsky, whose compositions influenced young Jewish tunesmiths including the Gershwins, who frequented local Yiddish theater. The plot is typical Yiddish immigrant soap opera, Goldele, a beautiful but poor orphan unexpectedly inherits her vanished father’s fortune and leaves for America with proposals from three no-goodnicks and Misha, the medical student who’s loved her since childhood and vice versa. In a foolish moment, she promises to marry whoever reunites her with the mother who vanished when she was an infant. Spoiler alert! Guess which one returns with the true Mama. They marry and live happily ever after.
One great joy of this production is the exuberant 14-piece orchestra under the jubilant baton of Zalmen Mlotek, filling the theater with endless melodies that has 2016 audiences dancing in their seats. Equally enthralling were the glorious operatically trained voices of the lovers: Rachel Policar as Goldele and Cameron Johnson as Misha, who despite their original unfamiliarity with Yiddish, sang each word as if they’d grown up in Berdychiv. Cameron Johnson not only even learned to dance what my mother called the Kazatchka, but to leap back on his heels when he was doing it! Ole! Ole!
Adorable in comic roles were Rachel Zatcoff from Phantom of the Opera as would-be actress Khanele and Glenn Seven Allen’s Jerome, unbelievably loose as her would-be Yankee vaudevillian boyfriend. Adam B. Shapiro stole whatever stage he was on as Kalman, the matchmaking male yenta, irresistibly resplendent in a three-piece suit made of red and white checked Little Italy Restaurant tablecloths.
Well-deserved praise also to Izzy Fields’ splendid costumes, John Dinning’s stetl-to-mansion convertible set and Merete Muenter’s outstanding choreography. Last but hardly least, co-directors Bryna Wasserman (NYTF Executor Director) and Motl Didner (BYTF Associate Artistic Director} deserve an award for transforming an old-fashioned operetta into a contemporary stunning success.
The Golden Bride will give you a golden evening. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t enjoy this joy-filled production.
At the Museum of Jewish Heritage thru August 28
For tickets: Call 866-811-4111
Photos: Justin Scholar