Rags, Lear & Landis Lead Jewish FestivalDate: 20 September 2001
The musical Rags, from composer Charles Strouse of Annie fame, is one of the leading attractions of the 2001 Jewish Chronicle Festival of Arts and Culture. The former Broadway show will make its UK professional premiere at London's Bridewell Theatre from 25 October 2001.
Other theatrical offerings in the Festival will see Julia Pascal's The Yiddish Queen Lear also play at the Bridewell, and actor/director Harry Landis lead a debate on the importance of Yiddish theatre.
Rags is based on a story from Joseph Stein, who also wrote Fiddler On the Roof. Strouse set Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics to music in a tale of an immigrant woman fleeing from Russia in the early 20th century. She arrives in New York with her son to seek a new life, and in search of the husband who had left a year earlier. The show originally flopped on Broadway in 1986, after a scathing review from the New York Times 'Butcher of Broadway' critic Frank Rich. However, it was successfully revived Off-Broadway in 1991 and has played widely across America's regional theatres.
The Yiddish Queen Lear opened in April 1999 at London's Southwark Theatre. It pays homage both to Shakespeare's King Lear, and also to traditional Yiddish theatre and language. The drama is set in 1930s New York, where a once-famous actress is handing her theatre business over to her daughters. Eastern European and American cultures combine, as the Holocaust approaches and two opposing worlds collide with tragic and humorous results. The Yiddish Queen Lear plays at the Bridewell from 24 September 2001.
The Theatre Museum in London's Covent Garden plays host to an all-day overview of Yiddish theatre on 14 October 2001. Harry Landis will lead the event, which will examine the impact of Yiddish drama on modern works. Landis has played a number of Cockney-Jewish characters in his career, which began with London's political Unity Theatre. His film credits include A Hill In Korea (with Michael Caine) and Ransom (with Sean Connery). He played Felix Kawalski in EastEnders during the 1990s, and starred in the highly acclaimed BBC drama Bar Mitzvah Boy in 1976.
The Bridewell's Rags production is directed by Matthew White, who was Associate director of the National Theatre's Carousel. Design is from Guy Nicholson who worked on the RNT's Carousel and Oklahoma!, plus The King and I and The Beautiful Game for the West End.
- by Gareth Thompson