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A CurtainUp Review
On Second Avenue
The English-Yiddish Musical Revue

On Second Avenue Plays a Second Engagement on Amsterdam Avenue
This engaging history of theYiddish theater was such a success when the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre revived it at the handsome JCC theater, that it's back for another three-month run. Same cast. Same venue, so I'll let our original review stand. -- Elyse Sommer ON SECOND AVENUE
Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre at JCC, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, 212/632-6200., online at
From 10/22/05 to 1/01/06 (re-opening 10/27/05). Tuesday @ 8pm, Wednesday - Thursday @ 2pm & 8pm, Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday @ 2pm & 6pm.
Tickets, $37.50 to $47.50. All other production notes per original review

--On Second Avenue, February 2005 review
2nd Avenue Cast
(clockwise from far left) Lisa Rubin, Elan Kunin, Robert Abelson, Joanne Borts, Mike Burstyn and Lisa Fishman
(Photo: Richie Fahey)
It's true, that the target audience for On Second Avenue is probably Jewish and of a certain age. But it's just as true that you don't have to understand Yiddish to enjoy this peppy musical history lesson. The narration and various numbers are a mix of English and Yiddish (mostly for the songs) with excellent and unobrusive super titles to translate the lyrics. It also makes no difference whether you're a high holy day Jew or an observant one. Judging from the great time a number of Asian-Americans sitting near me were having, it seems that you don't have to be Jewish at all to take this musical memory trip back to Second Avenue during its heyday as the Great White Way of the Yiddish theater.

The venerable Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, now in it's 90th season, has mounted this revival of the 1886 revue with great style. Though Mike Burstyn's name appears over the program's title, the amiable song and dance man's real star quality is most evident in the way he manages to be both leader and integral member of the diverse and talented ensemble which includes two other men and three women. All navigate effortlessly between skits songs and skits, solos and duets and full company numbers. Many of these skits could seem like tired old shtick if this gifted ensemble didn't put them across with such zest and obvious love of the material This is especially true of a series of jokes by Burstyn, which he puts across so that the punch line never fails to bring appreciative laughter. As for the voices, Robert Abelson's opera trained voice is a standout among standouts, and his peppy performance is an inspiration to all who think you have to slow down when you start collecting social security.

J. C. Oliver has created a delightful old-time vaudeville theater proscenium to frame several scene setting curtains and a screen for aptly projected still and animated images from the good old Second Avenue days. The scenic design and Kate Whitehead's on the mark costumes support the many characters the performers inhabit and the dozens of songs they sing to the accompaniment of the excellent seven member Folksbiene Klezmer band that's neatly positioned above the stage.

After the first act's love closing musical homage to the various shtetls from which Jews emigrated to New York, the back story of how of the Second Avenue theater scene and some of its start gets a more in-depth treatment. A stunning curtain with a montage of the Avenue abursti with marques includes the one remaining theater, the Orpheum, where Stomp has been playing for years -- quite a change from the vaudeville shows and dramas featuring such legendary names as Molly Picon and Maurice Schwartz (a film clip of "to be or not to be" in Yiddish is one of the show's archival high points).

Lorna Waynes's choreography adds to the fun. And director Bryna Wasserman directs at a pace that brings down the curtain before you can say Mazel Tov.

On Second Avenue<
Created by Moishe Rosenfeld and Zalmen Mlotek
Directed by Bryna Wasserman

Cast: Robert Abelson, Mike Burstyn, Joanne Borts, Lisa Fishman, Elan Kunin, Lisa Rubin and Reyna Schecter
Set Design: J. C. Olivier
Costume Design: Kate Whitehead
Lighting Design: Jacques-Olivier Dupuis
Music Director: Zalmen Mlotek
Orchestrations: Peter Sokolow
Folksbiene Klezmer Band: Dave Braynard, Bass; Jeff Buchsbaum, Conductor/Piano; Dave Chamberlain, Trombone; Larry Gillespie, Trumpet; Drew McVety, Violin; Matt Temkin, Drums and Howie Leshaw, Flute/Clarinet/Saxophone
Running time: 2 hours includes one 10-minute intermission
Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre in association with Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre of Montreal at JCC, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, (800) 9-YIDDISH, online at
2/27/05 to 4/10/05; opening 2/27/05.
Wednesday and Thursday at 2PM & 8PM, Saturday at 8PM, Sunday at 2PM.
Tickets: $45.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 2/24 matinee performance
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