Music, Book and Lyrics by Philip Yosowitz
Book by Andrea Lepico
Directed by Spiro Velpoudos
Your experience with “The Gold” will largely depend on what you’re looking for out of a new musical. If you’re looking for a heartfelt comedi-tragic story about two generations of a German-Jewish family surviving (and moving on from) World War II, come on over. The show is unabashedly classic Musical Theatre in format–sort of refreshingly, in an odd way, since many shows at this year’s NYMF have broken more new ground. And to its credit, “The Gold” has a handful of surprises under its sleeve that come more in moments than en masse–the focus on two boxers (one Christian, one Jewish) competing to represent Germany in the Olympics early in the show, or the way World War II Germans are portrayed in a variety of ways without leaning on stereotypes typical of these sorts of stories. The German Jews portrayed here are not mere victims; they are strong, they fight, they survive.
But these surprising moments are few are far between, which leads me to my only real issue with “The Gold”–for the most part, the show is awfully safe in its construction. If you’ve seen any stories about families during World War II (and I for one have seen many) this show will not surprise you. Songs are lovely but feel a bit paint-by-numbers in intention, and plot points are often telegraphed in advance, especially if you’ve ever seen a similar story told.
I don’t mean for this critique to take away from any gravitas that the show’s story portrays–at its core “The Gold” tells a lovely, haunting tale, and if nothing else the reason our modern culture often retells Holocaust stories is because they are stories that demand remembrance and reflection, and likely always will. But with that respect in mind, “The Gold” feels as if it floats like a butterfly more than it stings like a bee–and I wish it really, truly stung.
Here’s your point-by-point on what stood out:
- I appreciate that “The Gold” doesn’t settle into cookie-cutter moods–there are genuinely heartwarming moments, moments of sadness, humor, strength. This cause is helped tremendously by the two leads: One, Josh Davis as Joseph (the husband, boxer, and eventually soldier), who exudes both boyish charm and stern resilience. Two, Karis Danish as Sarah (his wife), who seems more of a pillar than a person, and performs with grace.
- The show covers much temporal ground–we jump through a few decades in a couple of hours (plus intermission). As a result the plot feels lean–we hit the points we need to hit. Sometimes the resulting effect is refreshingly, but often it feels disjointed–especially when plot points feel convenient, and the next timeline stop is usually expected.
- The scenic design is a mixed bag–Joe Beumer’s lighting design is simple but effective and often somber, and is well suited to helping frame the staging. But the set–a makeshift boxing ring, roped in–at first seems like a fascinating centerpiece, but as the boxing elements of the show fade into the background quickly, it ends up feeling like a leftover artifact–I noticed that often scenes would begin with stagehands clearing up the ropes to make way for full-stage dance numbers. (As a whole, you have to wonder why boxing is so prominently featured on set and in the promo materials, and yet accounts for relatively little plot time.)
WHAT IT’LL GET NOMINATED FOR:
- OUTSTANDING ACTORS: For Karis Danish and Josh Davis.
- OUTSTANDING ORCHESTRATIONS.
- OUTSTANDING MUSIC.
WHERE IT’LL GO:
I can easily imagine “The Gold” on the regional theater circuit. As it stands the show is already imminently “producible,” so to speak. I do think that honing in on the underlying, deep underbelly of this show could really make it shine. It feels as if the creative team was very brave in creating the show’s concept as a whole, but in execution, it just feels like a story and setup that I’ve seen before, with songs in the right places, and all of the necessary plot points. I wonder if there’s more under the hood, waiting to get into the ring.
For more information, visit: http://www.nymf.org/about/mission/2015-events/gold/