Never Mind The Quality: Rothschild & Sons At Park Theatre
It’s a fine idea to make a play about the origin of the house of Mayer Rothschild confined in the Judengasse quarter of Frankfurt before the Napoleonic Wars, and the family’s bravery and cunning in raising a global financial empire. But a musical? Clearly it’s hard to write an eleven o’clock number when the ghetto closes at nine.
Rothschild & Sons is the 1970 handiwork of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, joint composers of both She Loves Me (1963) and Fiddler on the Roof (1964) and suggests they had already thoroughly mined their seam of Mitteleuropean schmaltz six years earlier.
Is Marmite kosher? This is certainly a production with differing appeals: people with Jewish heritage may get more out of it because the success of the Rothschilds against severe opposition from Europe's princelings, warmongers and politicians makes them a justifiable beacon, but for anyone else, the charm is harder to access.
Even though the setting is the late 19th century, broadly the era of Hamilton if we're making comparisons, the music is thoroughly and only rooted in kletzmer as though there were no other ways to underscore the tenderness of Jewish romance and the steel of Jewish determinism.
Much time is wasted showing the sons as cowering apprentices in Mayer's shop in what feels like a watery version of Half a Sixpence. Rothschild & Sons is well-cast, the five 'boys' do tremendous work and harmonise beautifully, and as their father Robert Cuccioli is a vocally charismatic addition to London's leading men, even if he's given so little to stretch him in a score as insipid as this.
Rothschild & Sons, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP. Until 17 February 2018. £18.50-£29.50.
Last Updated 02 February 2018