The rags-to-riches story of the Rothschild family is a remarkable and fascinating one – but is it right for a musical?
Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick came up with the timeless score for Fiddler On The Roof but their attempts to recreate that magic with Rothschild & Sons, which opened last night at London’s Park Theatre, fails miserably.
This stagy, overripe production lurches from camp comedy to serious melodrama.
Some of the characters are so overplayed that I wondered if Sherman Yellen’s original book had been re-written as a farce.
The Bock/Harnick musical numbers are uninspiring and derivative. There isn’t a song that stays with you after the show finishes.
It is a pity because there is the making of a fine historical stage play here but this dated and clunky musical isn’t it.
Broadway star, Robert Cuccioli, brings a touch of quality to this dismal show as patriarch Mayer Rothschild who was a man with a plan and a lot of chutzpah to carry it through.
The story opens in the 18th century Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt where Rothschild, an ambitious hawker and trader in rare coins, has returned to run his father’s store after briefly working outside its walls as a trainee clerk and banker.
Through sheer nerve he attracts the attention of coin collector, the Prince of Hesse, who runs the city and who agrees to break tariffs and let the young Jew marry.
Before long, and after much praying, Mayer is delivered of five fine sons who are hot-housed by their father into learning banking and languages in preparation for a career in finance that eventually sees them establish bases throughout Europe.
The Rothschild name is now synonymous with international banking but their early fight for recognition, against a background of horrific antisemitism, is an extraordinary tale.
At the heart of this story is a family and race trying to carve out a place for themselves in history.
Cuccioli is charismatic and compelling throughout and never more so than when acting opposite the impressive Gary Trainer as his most rebellious and independent son, Nathan.
But the pair are let down by a bland script in director Jeffrey B Moss’s uneven and profoundly disappointing production.
Rothschild & Sons runs in the Park200 until February 17.
Rothschild & Sons
Robert Cuccioli’s powerful performance as Mayer Rothschild fails to save this patchy, disappointing show with its derivative musical numbers and stagy direction.