Rothschild and Sons review at Park Theatre, London – ‘old-fashioned’
Mayer Rothschild, the founder of the Rothschild dynasty, roes out of the Frankfurt ghetto to establish a bank in his name.
Originally staged as The Rothschilds in 1970, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s musical draws on Frederic Morton’s biography, paring it back to tell a fairly intimate tale of one man’s relationship with his five sons.
While there are obvious similarities with the far more successful Fiddler on the Roof, the show is marred by a baffling lack of female voices.
The sole female character is Rothschild’s woefully underwritten wife Gutele. Bock’s variable score reinforces the masculine tone of the piece, as do Harnick’s lyrics while Sherman Yellen’s book manages to truncate the Rothschild story into a single act.
The resulting musical may be relatively short but it also manages to drag, switching from family politics to European politics with little time to develop either.
Jeffrey B Moss’ modest revival is well presented, featuring several strong performances from Broadway regulars Glory Crampton and especially Robert Cuccioli as Mayer.
Cuccioli’s carefully modulated baritone lends a necessary authority to Mayer, but Crampton barely gets the opportunity to show what she can do. Her only solo Just a Map, barely scratching the surface of her character, compared to the emotional resonance of Mayer’s In My Own Lifetime, arguably the most beautiful number in the score.
There are some witty asides from Tony Timberlake, who brings a heavy element of camp to his performance, but otherwise this is a rather old-fashioned musical theatre curiosity.
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