Bar Mitzvah Boy
Upstairs At The Gatehouse
11 March 2015
Originally produced in 1978 in London, Bar Mitzvah Boy with a score by Jule Styne and lyrics by Don Black didn’t last closing after 78 performances.
In this reworked production, Don Black has unearthed some unused Styne melodies and given them lyrics to flesh out characters and a complete book revision has been undertaken by David Thompson.
Bar Mitzvah Boy is the story of Eliot Green who is about to undertake his Bar Mitzvah and his family. Much to the dismay of his family he flees the synagogue during the ceremony, leaving his family in pieces.
Bar Mitzvah Boy is very much a tale of a middle class London family. Family politics pervade throughout. Dinner with the Green’s is an affair to be navigated with extreme caution as Harold, boyfriend to Eliot’s sister Lesley discovers.
Prior to tonight I had not heard the score nor did I know particularly much about this musical, which was created by musical theatre greats. I got the feeling though that the revision of the piece perhaps didn’t go far enough.
The plot is fairly basic and for me that’s where Bar Mitzvah Boy as a musical starts to fall apart. Nothing really happens. All of the characters are assembled, each has his foibles and idiosyncrasies but there’s no real meat on the bone here to give those characters the ability to take flight.
There are some wonderful moments between Victor Green ( Robert Maskell) and Rita Green (Sue Kelvin), but poor old Harold (Nicholas Corre) has a lot of potential as a character but currently has no real purpose.
The ensemble of performers here, Adam Bregman, Nicholas Corre, Sue Kelvin, Robert Maskell, Howard B Morse, Hannah Rose-Thompson, Jeremy Rose and Lara Stubbs do their best with the material provided but more work is needed to bring the musical up to par.
This is the first London revival of the show since its original run in London, from all accounts it’s an improvement on the original and still makes for an enjoyable brief sojourn in the theatre. Here’s hoping that the remaining member of the original creative team Don Black can continue to fashion the show into the touching intimate family drama it could potentially be.