National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene Updates Immigration Musical AMERIKE - THE GOLDEN LAND
Complete casting and the production design team are being announced today by NYTF's newly appointed CEO Christopher Massimine (formerly the company's COO and executive producer).
Directed by the Drama Desk Award-nominated Bryna Wasserman, this reconceived production of Zalmen Mlotek and Moishe Rosenfeld's beloved musical (originally "The Golden Land") -- begins performances at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, on Tuesday July 4 at 7pm. The show's five-week Off-Broadway engagement plays through Sunday August 6.
A richly textured evocation of New York City as it absorbed wave upon wave of Jewish immigrants from 1897 through the 1940s, "Amerike - The Golden Land" features Glenn Seven Allen (Bway: "Light in the Piazza," Encores "Girl Crazy," and Jerome in "The Golden Bride"); Alexandra Frohlinger (Bway: "Soul Doctor," national tours Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella," "West Side Story"); the international klezmer star Daniel Kahn ("Death of a Salesman" in Yiddish); Dani Marcus (national tour "A Gentleman's Guide..." NYTF's "Pirates of Penzance" and "Hershele Ostropolyer"), Stephanie Lynne Mason (Bway: "Fiddler on the Roof," national tour and Las Vegas "Million Dollar Quartet") and David Perlman (Bway: "Baby It's You!" Off-Bway: "A Dog Story" and "Yank!," Goodspeed "Fiddler on the Roof"). Jessica Futran and Christopher Tefft will be the designated principal understudies.
The show's ensemble includes Ashton Michael Corey, Maya Jacobson, Alexander Kosmowski, Raquel Nobile, Isabel Nesti, and Bobby Underwood.
The Detroit-born Daniel Kahn is a leader of the Yiddish cultural revival sweeping major cities around the world. He was featured two seasons ago in the New Yiddish Rep production of "Death of a Salesman" in Yiddish. Kahn, who fronts the Berlin-based band The Painted Bird, will be among the headliners of NYTF's upcoming 3rd annual "Yiddish Soul" concert at SummerStage in Central Park on Wednesday June 14 at 7pm.
First seen in 1984, "The Golden Land" was commissioned to Mlotek (NYTF's artistic director) and Rosenfeld (recently hailed as "Broadway's Yiddish whisperer" in the NY Post) by the Worksmen's Circle to create a musical commemorating the 85th anniversary (in 1982) of the The Forward newspaper. At the time, the show was conceived as a mostly English-language musical in order to accommodate non-Yiddish speakers. Today, responding to contemporary audiences' taste for authentic, roots-related cultural experiences, and propelled by the breakaway success of the entirely Yiddish operetta "The Golden Bride," the reworked "Amerike" will be presented in Yiddish, with English and Russian supertitles, to deliver a more truthful distillation of the sights and sounds of Jewish-American immigration.
With a score that weaves in popular period songs heard on the radio and in the theatres along Second Avenue, the show recreates an authentic soundscape of New York's Lower East Side and of the outer-borough neighborhoods to which the Jewish population gravitated. Its book incorporates the stories and observations of real-life immigrants collected by Mlotek and Rosenfeld -- people who, like the vast majority of American immigrants, faced the heartbreak of starting over and the challenges of confronting poverty and racism, both abroad and in their new home.
Music direction and arrangements are by Zalmen Mlotek. The production's casting and general management are supervised by Jamibeth Margolis, CSA, with production oversight by two-time Tony Award-nominated and two-time Drama Desk Award-nominated producer, Christopher Massimine.
The show's documentary-style approach is heightened by the use modern sound and projection design, and the musical staging incorporates the show's 7-piece klezmer band on stage.
"Amerike - The Golden Land's" production design team reunites "The Golden Bride" alums Yael Lubetzky (lighting); Izzy Fields (costume design) and the Chita Rivera Award nominee Merete Muenter who is responsible for the movement and staging. New to the team are scenic and projection designer Jason Courson ("Newsical"), props designer Colleen Lynch, and the sound designer Patrick Calhoun. Eileen Haggerty is the production stage manager.
Filled with popular musical reference points like "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" or "Over There," "Amerike - The Golden Land" illustrates how the songs of immigrant cultures both responded to and even influenced American popular culture... a process that continues to this day. These are truly the songs that immigrants heard, adopted, and reappropriated as they transitioned from the old country into a new way of life.
"It is a snapshot of time, in which we mix the familiar and unfamiliar, real-life events, historic events with the domestic lives of the characters," says Wasserman, who received a Drama Desk nomination for direction for "The Golden Bride." "It's as if we were watching the pages of American social history come to life."
"The show is more than just a metaphor for the Jewish immigrant experience; it is a metaphor for America as a land of opportunity and freedom," adds Mlotek. "How did we become like this, a place that has been immensely welcoming to the dispossessed, but that also presents intense challenges to its new citizens?"
Established 1915, the Drama Desk-winning National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, or NYTF, brings a rich cultural heritage to life on stage-one that was nearly destroyed some 75 years ago. At its new permanent home at the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, NYTF presents relevant and impactful programming to more than 100,000 attendees annually.
This season NYTF has joined the producing team of the Tony-nominated Best Play, "Indecent," as the associate producer. The scintillatingly original and timely drama chronicles a touchstone of the Yiddish theatre, Sholem Asch's "God of Vengeance." NYTF is actively involved in cultivating wide audiences by emphasizing the continued impact and relevance of Yiddish culture on American popular culture.