Monday, September 21, 2020

355. MOLLY. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Kaye Ballard, Lee Wallace.

MOLLY [Musical/Business/Family/Jews/Period] B: Louis Garfinkle and Leonard Adelson; M: Jerry Livingston; LY: Leonard Adelson and Mack David; SC: Gertrude Berg’s radio and TV series, “The Goldbergs”; D: Alan Arkin; CH: Grover Dale; S: Marsha L. Eck; C: Carrie F. Robbins; L: Jules Fisher; P: Don Saxon, Don Kaufman and George Daley i/a/w Complex IV; T: Alvin Theatre; 11/1/73-12/29/73 (68)

Eli Mintz, Lisa Rochelle.

“The Goldbergs” was one of radio and, later, TV’s, most endearing weekly sitcoms, from 1929 through 1954. Its creator and star, Gertrude Berg, established in its chief character, Molly Goldberg, the quintessential picture of a wise, warmhearted, New York Jewish mother. A Broadway play by Mrs. Berg, Me and Molly, had run for 156 performances in 1948, and was partly responsible for the material in this unsuccessful musical.

Set in the Bronx during the deep Depression year of 1933, it chronicles the family’s business problems. The husband, Jake (Ed Koch lookalike Lee Wallace), is torn between remaining in New York, where he has been laid off from his garment center job, and moving to California to become a fruit grower. The romantic dilemma of the son, Sammy (Daniel Fortus), forms another plot line. Seeing to it that all works out well is Molly (Kaye Ballard), the indomitable, sentimental, philosophical matriarch.

Song titles include "There's a New Deal on the Way," "If Everyone Got What They Wanted," "Sullivan's Got a Job," "There's Gold on the Trees," "The Mandarin Palace on the Grand Concourse," "The Tremont Avenue Cruisewear Fashion Show," and "I've Got a Molly," among others.

Swen Swenson, Connie Day.

“[S]o thin” was the book, complained Clive Barnes, that it should have been “called a magazine.” Neither music, lyrics, nor choreography were inventive enough to help a capable cast (including Eli Mintz, the original Uncle David) from being laid off within two months. The company was led by the catastrophically miscast Kaye Ballard, daughter of Italian immigrants, who was unable to muster even a bissel of Molly’s Jewishness. John Simon thought the “boring” show a “soggy, limp, runny” mess, and Brendan Gill called it “atrocious,” “one of the ugliest shows ever to reach Broadway.”

Cast members included Swen Swenson, Connie Day, Lisa Rochelle, Justine Johnston, Toni Darnay, and Camila Ashland, among many others.