By Anne-Allegra Bennett (@aab_artiste)
The true worth of family is seen through respect and devotion for each other and the priceless moments that bring individuals together. There may be times when emotional and financial hardships are endured, but it’s the strength and courage to fight for one another that has more value than any amount of money placed on material goods. Family supporting family, and the love shared between them is at the heart of The York Theatre Company’s production of Rothschild & Sons.
Originally produced on Broadway in 1970, this current version offers a new look at the Rothschild family and how their stories are told. The original (nominated for nine Tony Awards) had a cast of forty, while this current has only eleven. Many revisions to the book of the show have been made over the past few years. A previous version (then titled The Rothschilds) was produced at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 1995, in Miami. With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and a book by Sherman Yellen, Rothschild & Sons is an intriguing look at the life of the highly recognized Rothschild family of the 18th and 19th centuries.
From their troubled times in Germany when Jews were forced to live in a Ghetto, to becoming a family with strong financial empires and political power across Europe; Rothschild & Sons is a moving story of how one family worked together to bring more influence, money, and rights into their lives for themselves and others. Guided by the patriarch of the family Mayer Rothschild (Robert Cuccioli), Rothschild & Sons is a riveting story with skillfully performed songs that are not only entertaining, but also educational in their telling of the history of the family.
Each member of the cast brought individual attributes to their performances, helping to distinguish each one of characters while still showing the connections and relationships they have with one another on the stage. The strong qualities in how they related as an ensemble carried over into the audience. By watching each of their performances, the logic and progression of the story transformed with clarity.
Embracing the full look historically added to the belief that one was living through what the family had to endure in order to try and survive. There were many important songs used to move the story along, and one of the most memorable was “Everything” sung by Gutele (Glory Crampton), and the five sons Salomon (Jamie LaVerdiere), Amshel (Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper), Kalmann (Curtis Wiley), Nathan (Christopher M. Williams), and Jacob (David Bryant Johnson). This number told of how the sons wanted more than to be kept prisoner in the Ghetto without the freedom of others, while Gutele (their mother) tried to convince them that they had all that they really needed in life. The topic is intense and the song character driven, yet musically upbeat, making for an interesting combination. The use of canons and multiple choruses being sung at once showed an interesting collage of sound.
Rothschild & Sons incorporates different numbers showcasing the personalities of the characters, and a great number for Mayer Rothschild showed how versatile of a performer Robert Cuccioli really is. The number “He Tossed A Coin” had Mr. Cuccioli moving about the stage as his character tried to get others to buy rare coins. It’s the Rothschild family’s position working with coins and other goods to peddle that later leads to other opportunities coming about as they work their way in with people in higher positions in society.
“Jew Do Your Duty” showed just how much the Jewish community is put through in order to survive, and how little respect they are shown by other members of the community. It’s the segregation of the people. Gutele’s “Just A Map” is a moving song utilized after her sons depart for their individual destinations all around Europe, and how it’s all different when it’s just a map filled with different colors. Many noteworthy and catchy songs throughout the show, and they are filled with interesting rhythms and lyrics.
The cast and crew created the world of the show with great historic knowledge and attention focused on the important details of every costume, set, prop, and in how it was all lit. A show well worth seeing for the talent in the production, as well as for the history lesson to be learned on the Rothschild family. A very strong and impressive cast all-around, and an equally talented creative team. The show features music direction by Jeffrey Klitz, music supervision/orchestrations by Joseph Church, choreography by Denis Jones, and direction by Jeffrey B. Moss.
Rothschild & Sons is playing through November 8 at The Theater at the York Theatre at Saint Peter’s at 619 Lexington Avenue. For tickets and additional information, visit www.yorktheatre.org, or call 212-935-5820. Follow The York Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and use #ROTHSCHILDandSONS in the posts. The show runs about 75 minutes without an intermission, and features music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Sherman Yellen.