By William Wolf

ROTHSCHILD & SONS  Send This Review to a Friend

“The Rothschilds,” a quality musical about the famous financial family that emerged from the Frankfurt ghetto in the late 18th century to become powerful bankers, with music By Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Sherman Yellen, appeared on Broadway in 1970 and in an off-Broadway production in 1990. Bock is gone, but Harnick and Yellen, with cooperation by the Bock estate, have now turned the show into “Rothschild & Sons,” with the emphasis on Rothschild and the five sons who helped build the financial empire in Europe.

The adaptation, presented by The York Theatre Company, in association with Arnold Mittelman and the National Jewish Theater Foundation, makes sense with honing the show into the new approach, and the musical acquires more dramatic focus and eliminates some of the less potent threads. New songs have been added, while some of the others have been dropped. It remains a forceful exploration of how the Rothschilds battled anti-Jewish discrimination.

This story now concentrates on the sons following in their father’s footsteps and gaining what he always wanted, a declaration removing the stigma from Jews, a feat attained by financial power and manipulative risks. Money talks, and the Rothschilds are depicted forcing concessions by banking maneuvers that are a threat to the powers that be, and the sons getting what they and their father wanted.

Robert Cuccioli is vibrant and impressive as Meyer Rothschild, head of the family. Leading a strong cast interpreting the revamped musical, Cuccioli brings acting and singing power to the role. The total effect is to make one appreciate anew the special quality of the work, and the ability to turn high finance into a viable musical.

Jeffrey B. Moss, who with Mittelman, nurtured the project’s development, directed “Rothschild & Sons,” which at this point comes across as somewhat of a concert version, but indicates its potential of emerging as a full production with a fresh life. At the York Theatre, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street. Phone: 212-935-5820. Reviewed October 20, 2015.


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