The Golden Land, a period musical created by Zalmen Mlotek & Moishe Rosenfeld in 1985 and now directed with great timing and verve by Bryna Wasserman, is a sweet show about the immigrant experiences of Eastern European Jews in the late 1800’s, the 1910’s and in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. With a high-level cast of terrific singer/dancers (Bob Adler, Cooper Grodin, Stacey Harris, Andrew Keltz, Daniella Rabbani and Sandy Rosenberg), this is a simple story well done, filled with a sweet nostalgia and Yiddish-flavored tunes as the newcomers arrive, find work, have labor troubles, survive the Triangle Fire in 1911, become citizens, and go through WW I. There is a terrific, stirring anthem for justice as the Act 1 finale.
Act 2 is the American experience: numbers about moving to the Bronx and a look at the Yiddish theater (with Shakespeare being performed in Yiddish), Jews creating the movie industry (cute stuff), Yiddish radio commercials on WEVD, the 1929 crash, the 30’s, The Depression (“Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”), visas denied to Jews, a fine rendition of “Romania, Romania,” and a Holocaust reflection.
Throughout the show, I had urges to get up and dance along with the cast who bounced with Deanna Dys’ choreography. The spare, two-level, imaginative set by Roger Hanna works perfectly, as does the excellent lighting by Brian W. Barnett. And there are wonderful costumes, changing with the periods, by Natasha Landau.
This is a first-class musical production by Folksbiene, The National Yiddish Theater, and don’t worry about the Yiddish — it’s almost entirely in English, with any Yiddish you need to know immediately translated. A great musical time was had by all; did I say the singers were all Broadway-level? They are.