Monday, March 2, 2009

Why Another Jewish Show?

"'re writing another show about a Jewish family, eh?" Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock were asked.

Their easy answer was, "Why not?" But that answer was not the real story.

That answer would not begin to do justice to the true, exciting and amazing story of the Rothschild family.

In fact, Bock and Harnick's interest in The Rothschild's story predates their interest in Sholem Aleichem's story that would be the basis for Fiddler on the Roof.

Not long after the huge success of Frederick Morton's bestselling book, The Rothschilds, the musical pair were contacted about writing the musical score to accompany an already written libretto. However, they declined the offer when they found this libretto uninspiring and unable to capture the excitement they had found in Morton's biography.

They began to look around for other projects and discovered Sholem Aleichem. They went on to write the musical Fiddler on the Roof based on the Aleichem story and followed with The Apple Tree.

They were once again approached about writing the musical score for The Rothschilds this time with a new book written by Sherman Yellen. They agreed that the new book was "exceptionally witty and imaginative" and jumped into the project..

They resolved to make the show as unlike Fiddler as possible and there they succeeded magnificently. Although both shows are about poor Jewish families the similarities stop there. The show spans decades from the Frankfort ghetto to the fairgrounds, a glittering palace of a German prince, to the London stock exchange, and finally to an elegant ballroom where the crowned heads of Europe have gathered.

The songs rather than very Russian and Slavic are in the "18th and 19th century style. by autocratic Germans, French soldiers, London brokers, Austrian royally, European nobility and the Rothschild family."

This rags to riches Cinderella story happens amidst the color and excitement of the Napoleonic era.

So the real answer to the question is, "Mayer Rothschild was subjected to the humiliation and deprivation of the ghetto. He managed, nonetheless, to give his five sons a better start in life than he had himself. What he did and why he did it are the story elements that make this tale so relevant and so worth telling today. And that is why we're writing another show about a Jewish family."

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