I quipped before the show, with the benefit of hindsight not very amusingly, that it was a relief to know the show is called Rothschild & Sons and not Rothschild & Great-Grandsons. On second thoughts, there’s a lot more to the Rothschild family story than this musical reveals. Take Louis Nathaniel de Rothschild (1882-1955), for instance, an Austrian baron who was imprisoned during the Anschluss in 1938, and survived the Holocaust and Second World War. The Third Reich took possession of many of the Rothschild family belongings, but by this point in their illustrious history, the Rothschilds had financial interests in various countries. Therefore, the Nazi regime seized little, if any, of the Rothschild fortune, as it had been quickly redistributed in such a way as to be outside Hitler’s reach.
Stories like that one, which I read in The Rothschilds: A Family Portrait, the book by Frederic Morton (1924-2015) on which this musical is based, don’t see the light of day in this stage adaptation, which ends rather abruptly at the end of chapter five (of ten) of the book. An entire section of chapter ten is devoted to details about the women in the Rothschild dynasty, who, far from snowflakes sat at home knitting or otherwise sitting pretty at social functions, have their own commercial interests. Apparently, they always have done.
But one wouldn’t have thought so from this musical. Gutele (Glory Crampton), the sole female, is given zero (and I mean zero) character development. In the early scenes, she is a baby machine who only produces boys (Mayer (Robert Cuccioli), the founder of the Rothschild dynasty, fathered ten children in total with Gutele, five of whom were girls). In the middle scenes she does nothing but wail and whinge at her husband because she disagrees with him, and in the final scenes she merely accepts the persuasive arguments set down by third-born son Nathan (Gary Trainor). An All Hail the Patriarchy approach is front and centre of this revised version of a musical first performed in 1970. In which case, why include Gutele at all? Her inclusion only accentuates how male-oriented this production is.
That said, there are a few decent punchlines in the dialogue, though the show could have benefited from more comic relief. I’m also still not sure what to make of the caricatured accents. Prince William of Hesse-Hanau and Prince Metternich of the Austrian Empire (both played by Tony Timberlake) were so poncey I occasionally wondered whether I was watching an episode of the Monty Python series.
Despite all of that, it’s still quite watchable, and the musicians, directed by Ben van Tienen, produce a distinctly Jewish sound throughout. But the musical numbers are not particularly memorable, though Mayer’s ‘In My Own Lifetime’, the show’s closest thing to an eleven o’clock number, stands out. The ‘sons’ are at their best as far as the storyline goes when they are working in partnership; as far as the musical numbers go, they’re at their best when their voices are combined in harmony. The scene changes are (mostly) smooth and rightly, in a show about the Rothschilds, there’s much to be learnt about the world of banking. The trouble is, for all the efficiency and coherent strategic planning that the show focuses on, it’s difficult to warm to the show’s characters, making this theatrical experience somewhat less profitable than it might have been. The costumes (Pam Tait) and choreography (Denis Jones) are both good, though.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Rothschild & Sons, a musical by Broadway songwriting legends Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me) and Tony-nominated writer Sherman Yellen, directed by Jeffrey B.Moss, is the story of Mayer Rothschild, his wife and sons, who despite being trapped behind ghetto walls, dream of a day when they are no longer locked in or anyone like them locked out.
This re-imagined musical was inspired by the book The Rothschilds by Frederic Morton and includes several never-before-heard songs in its UK premiere.
The stellar cast of Broadway and West End actors is led by Tony nominee Robert Cuccioli as Mayer and Glory Crampton as Gutele, roles they created to great acclaim in the New York premiere of Rothschild & Sons, and School of Rock’s Gary Trainor as Nathan Rothschild.
This uplifting and universal tale follows the rise of the Rothschild family from their humble home in the Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt, Germany, to the heights of European prominence. Mayer Rothschild is an ambitious young merchant anxious to make something of himself in a world that openly despises Jews. He marries, has five sons, and ultimately, by use of his quick wit and perseverance, transforms his family into an international banking empire serving the royal courts of Europe. But Mayer’s main objective is to see the ghetto walls torn down before he dies and for this, he, his wife and his sons, are prepared to risk everything.
Robert Cuccioli – Mayer Rothschild
Glory Crampton – Gutele
David Delve – Budurus
Richard Dempsey – Salomon
Tom Giles – Amshel
Tom Lloyd – Guard/Various
Kris Marc-Joseph – Kalmann
Joanna Strand – Woman 2/Various
Tony Timberlake – Princes/Herries
Gary Trainor – Nathan
Stephen Webb – Jacob
Jeffrey B. Moss – Director
Ben Van Tienen – Musical Director
Denis Jones – Choreographer
Rebecca Brower – Set Designer
Pam Tait – Costume Designer
Jack Weir – Lighting Designer
Louise Rhoades-Brown – Video Designer
Richard Mawbey – Wigs And Hair Designer
Anne Vosser – Casting Director
David Adkin Limited | General Manager
Arnold Mittelman in association with Park Theatre presents the UK Premiere of
Rothschild & Sons
Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Book by Sherman Yellen
Based on The Rothschilds by Frederic Morton
Directed by Jeffrey B. Moss
Venue: Park200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP
Dates: 24 January – 17 February 2018