Thomas Burns Scully
- OnStage New York Critic
As a reviewer, I think the hardest reviews to write are reviews of shows that are good, but not really my cup of tea. I’ve said before I’m not the biggest musical fan, they’re all well and good, but, with a few exceptions, I’d always rather see a play. My views on Opera and Operettas are comparable. The talent of the people involved is undeniable, the skill, training and rehearsal that goes in to the stuff is staggering, but they rarely move me in that same way as a well-made play. The loss is entirely mine, I am sure. But what that means is, when the time comes for me a to review a piece in one of those genres (in this case Operetta), I’m at a loss for what to say besides: “Yes, it was very good.” The show I’m looking at this week is very much like that. I believe it was rather good. Even excellent in many places.
There’s not a lot I can find to fault it on. But I will never carry it with me in the special room of my heart where lurks classic ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ and ‘Kapow-i Gogo’. Not through any fault of its own, of course, but this is the fragile nature of opinion and criticism. Given the purview with which I am allowed to write for OnStage, and my own personal writing style, then, allow me to indulge in prose that will attempt to praise what I do not understand, and hope that I do not fall accidentally in to echoes of faint damming. Because ‘The Golden Bride’ at the Museum of Jewish Heritage was rather good. It just wasn’t for me.
It is being presented as part of KulturfestNYC, the international festival of Jewish performing arts. At its core, and its extremities, it is a simple story. A girl living in a small Russian township inherits a fortune. She longs for the love of her childhood sweetheart, but must leave with her Uncle for America in order to claim her fortune. Bound by duty, she says she will marry whomsoever finds her long lost mother, believing it will be her sweetheart, but as time wears on, doubts surface and other prospective husbands take to the field to try their luck. She becomes known as ‘The Golden Bride’, because of the immense wealth that will go to her eventual suitor. As a fun side plot, the sister of the girl’s sweetheart wants to come to New York to become an actress and courts the Golden Bride’s silly but charming actor son. And the whole thing is performed in Yiddish, with supertitles for the dialectically impaired.
‘Golden Bride’ feels like a throwback, and it is, a very pleasant one. The feel is similar to what I got when I went to see ‘On The Town’. It feels very of its time, and so seems quaint to a modern audience. Quaint however, in the best, least patronizing sense of the word. Charming might be a better one. The plot is an old-fashioned comedy plot, in that it ends with at least one marriage, but within that it is able to find all sorts of fun characters, diversions and the like. The songs are often larky and upbeat, with the odd lament thrown in for color, and the performers all sing wonderfully. Not a weak link in the cast. Though bland, the central love story is well played by Rachel Policar and Cameron Johnson and so is endearing as opposed to insufferable. By far my favorites were Rachel Zatcoff and Glenn Seven Allen as the sister and her American beaux respectively, who share the funniest scene in the play. In this scene they pretend to be in an abusive relationship, playing as if they are in a melodrama, and are walked in on by other members of the family, who don’t realize they’re pretending. This comic misunderstanding is worthy of the Marx brothers and performed with the timing and skill of same. A close second comes Adam B. Shapiro as a local matchmaker. His song in which he sets up a harem of maids with terrible men is a lot of fun, though it doesn’t quite ascend the same heights as the acting-misunderstanding scene.
And that’s all I have to say. If you like a good light Operetta, this is for you. It had enough appeal and pizzazz for me, a non-Operettist, to enjoy himself, so I can only imagine how much fun this would be if you’re in to such things. A terrific cast, fun songs and witty book that doesn’t lose anything in the translation all make for an enjoyable sit down in the theatre. And what a theatre. The performance hall at the Museum of Jewish Heritage is a rare thing of beauty too, an Off-Broadway venue that feels like its pitching way above its pay grade. I would give ‘The Golden Bride’ a hearty recommendation. It’s still not quite my cup of tea, and it probably never will be, but that should by no means stop you from taking a trip down Bowling Green way, where this little delight is playing through August. It would be well worth your time.
‘The Golden Bride’ runs through August 28, tickets start at $40. For more information and ticketing see nytf.org.
This review was written by Thomas Burns Scully, a New York based writer, actor and musician. His work has been lauded by TimeOut NY, the New York Times, BAFTA US, the Abbey Theatre Dublin and other smaller organizations too numerous to mention. His theatrical writing has been performed on three continents. He performs improv comedy professionally and plays lead guitar in two bands. He is generally considered to be the thrifty person’s Renaissance man.
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