Sunday, November 8, 2020

375. ONLY FOOLS ARE SAD. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Danny Maseng, Galia Yishay, Shlomo Nitzan, Danny Litani, Aviva Schwartz, Michael Noy.
ONLY FOOLS ARE SAD [Musical Revue/Israeli] B: Dan Almagor; M: Old Hassidic songs; LY (TR): Robert Freund; S: Dani Karavan; L: Yehiel Orgal; P: Yaacov Agmon; T: Edison Theatre; 11/22/71-3/26/72 (144)

This was a show about the Hassidic sect of Judaism, which dates from the 18th century. A hit in Tel Avivk, the show was translated into English for its Broadway showing. Dan Almagor put it together out of Hassidic songs and stories. Its form resembled a revue more than a conventional musical. Each of the six talented performers—Galia Yshay, Danny Litany, Danny Maseng, Shlomo Nitzan, Michael Noy, and AviVa Schwartz—sang and played the guitar. They each wore jeans and sports shirts, making them look like secular students or working folk, and anything but Hassidim, who wear traditional garb. Mingled with the musical pieces were narrative sketches and bits of pantomime, presented in a style resembling that of Paul Sills’s then-popular Story Theatre.

Songs included "Once There Was a Melody, "Isaac, the Baker, "Don't Suck the Bones," "Eat, Lord, and Enjoy," "The Ten Ruble Note," "Gedaliah, The Tar Maker," and many others.

Reviews ranged from friendly to skeptical. Martin Washburn liked the “rousing and penetrating” songs, Clive Barnes was fond of the staging and “touching” subject matter, and Richard Watts called it “a disarming little entertainment.” Martin Gottfried, however, thought it was “generally dull.” “The ecstatic piety, the aloof, self-righteous strength of the Hassidim has been translated into a nightclub floorshow, and it loses a great deal in the translation.”