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BWW Review: Bock and Harnick's ROTHSCHILD & SONS, a Reimagined Revival


Though the show gave Hal Linden's career a big boost when it opened on Broadway in 1970, winning him a Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award, THE ROTHSCHILDS, and pretty much every other musical on Broadway, was overshadowed that season by the high-concept COMPANY.

Jamie LaVerdiere, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, David Bryant Johnson,
Robert Cuccioli, Curtis Wiley and ChristopherM. Williams
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)

Artistic disagreements plagued the original production and caused the breakup of Bock and Harnick's partnership, but the final collaboration of the team, whose FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and SHE LOVES ME are both prepping for Broadway revivals this season, left behind a treasured cast album preserving its crisp, well-crafted theatre songs and a majestic overture that ranks among musical theatre's finest.

With Bock now deceased, Harnick and bookwriter Sherman Yellen's reimagined version of their musical, titled ROTHSCHILD & SONS, trims the lavish Broadway production into an intimate affair, revising the text, cutting some songs and inserting others from the trunk.

Taken from Frederic Morton's biography, THE ROTHSCHILDS, the plot begins in the late 1700s Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt and traces the rise of shopkeeper Mayer Rothschild from poverty to founder of what becomes one of the world's largest banking empires.

Glory Crampton and Robert Cuccioli
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)

The original production contained two romantic pairings. In a time when only twelve Jewish couples were allowed to marry per year, Mayer uses his moxie and schmoozing skills to gain favor with those in power and gets approval to marry his love, Gutele. They have five sons, the most headstrong of which is Nathan, who, in the second act, is sent to London to make investments and falls for the equally headstrong Hanna.

Director Jeffrey B Moss's chamber production, handsomely fitted with Carrie Robbins' period costumes, is a one-act version that whittles the cast down to eleven, eliminating Hanna and intending to present, as the creators describe it, a love story between a father and his sons.

The very fine actor and singer Robert Cuccioli makes for a brash and crafty Mayer, who dreams of creating a grand life for Gutele (Glory Crampton) and the children they will have. The musical begins strongly with "One Room," her insistence that she'd be perfectly happy with a simple life together, and the showpiece musical scene, "Sons," which announces the birth of their five children one by one and shows Mayer teaching them the family business.

But once the complications of the plot take over, with the family becoming superior court agents to the Danish king and a race to collect debts throughout Europe before the conquering Napoleon can claim them and invest each one in the British market, there's little room left for family emotions.

Crampton is an accomplished singer/actor whose role becomes regulated to reminding the men to appreciate modest achievements and while there is genuine excitement when Mayer and his boys (Curtis Wiley, Jamie LaVerdiere, Christopher M. Williams, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper and David Bryan Johnson) roar with gusto as they sing of their ambition and confidence, ROTHSCHILD & SONS is that rare Bock and Harnick musical that never seems to find its heart.

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From This Author Michael Dale