‘I’m reviewing a Bock and Harnick show at The Park Theatre. I’ve got a spare ticket. Want to come? It’s about – ’
‘Bock and Harnick? Oh, I just love Fiddler on the Roof? Tevye the milkman and his struggle to find good husbands for his daughters and…’
‘No, not that Bock and Harnick show. The one they wrote next. Well, a re-working of the one they wrote next. Rothschild and Sons. Had its first outing in 1971 as The Rothschilds. Ran 505 performances on Broadway.’
‘Oh. Well, what’s that one about?’
‘It’s about a pushy peddler who founds a banking dynasty by investing money in cotton and European wars.’
‘Cotton? Produced by African slaves you mean?’
‘Well… yes…I suppose.’
‘Don’t tell me he made money out of tobacco too?’
‘Yes. And by loaning it to governments to fight wars. So, wanna come?’
Ok, my quest to give away a free ticket to this show didn’t quite go like this, but I was turned down by five people, which has to tell you something.
As I alluded to above, Rothschild & Sons is a re-working of the 1971 show, The Rothschilds. Sadly, the material hasn’t been re-worked anywhere near enough to make the show a goer, and without either the take-away hits of Fiddler or a book which adheres even remotely to the basics of storytelling, it’s one very much for the aficionado.
As so often before, the structure does one thing whilst the actual storytelling does something completely different.
The story the creative team want to tell is about Meyer Rothschild, and how he thought he would be able to (literally) break down the walls of the ghetto by making so much money that the ‘powers that be’ will have to listen to him. He does this by sending his five sons off around Europe to collect debts and invest money for the local Prince in exile. All well and good. Problem is, this bit of the story starts halfway through the show.
The story we’re given in the first twenty minutes is about a man who desperately wants to get married, and by about twenty minutes in, is. The story we’ve invested in is done and dusted, so everything after that is rather superfluous.
Still, for the completist, there are nice performances from Robert (Jekyll and Hyde) Cuccioli as Meyer Rothschild who, like the rest of the cast, is un-miked in this very ‘black-box’ production. His songs range from the rather nice ‘In my own lifetime’ to the almost superfluous ‘He Never Listens’ but there’s nothing in the score to rival Fiddler.
Glory Crampton as Meyer’s wife Gutele is rather underused, as is the other carry-over from the US production, meaning that the decision was obviously taken to have the Rothschild family, whether American or English, sing with American accents.
I think I’m right in saying that all the sons are in fact English actors, but they fit in admirably.
I think my top prize goes to Tony Timberlake though who plays a succession of European princes all with Mittel-Europaische accents and different wigs.
The show is played straight through with no interval, which means it’s a brave soul indeed who doesn’t stay until the end…
All in all a bit of a let down though, and from writers with the experience and knowledge to do a better job.
- Director: Tamara HarveyJeffrey B Moss
- Book: Sherman Yellan
- Music: Jerry Boch
- Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick
- Cast includes: Robert Cuccioli, Glory Crampton, David Delve, Richard Dempsey, Tom Giles, Tom Lloyd, Kris Marc-Joseph, Joanna Strand
- Park Theatre, London
- Until 17 February 2018