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 YIDDISH THEATRE 101 > THE YIDDISH PLAYS > THE PLAY IN HISTORY  >  WILLIAM SIEGEL   >   MY MALKELE

 

 

SYNOPSIS OF "MY MALKELE"

by William Siegel



This play starred Molly Picon and Aaron Lebedeff.
It was first staged on September 15, 1937 in NYC's Public Theatre.
The synopsis below is from the program doled out during its performance.
The photographs below are sheet music covers and the cast members.
 

A new operetta with music by Abe Ellstein, lyrics by Jacob Jacobs, and staged by Jacob Kalich.


ACT ONE

SCENE 1

On the road to Karitchenitz, something goes wrong with the wagon, and while the Chasidim wait for the "goy" to repair the damage, the gabbai of the Sosever rabbi tells them that he is on his way to Karitchenitz to arrange for the wedding of Malkele, the Karitchenitzer rabbi's grand-daughter to Yukel Simche, the Sosever rabbi's grandson. While waiting they greet the new moon, and off to Karitchenitz they go.

SCENE 2

In Vienna, where Yankele, the secret sweetheart of Malkele, is studying music under the patronage of Julia, who has arranged an audition for Yankele with the leader of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the sweethearts meet only to part with a promise that he will return to marry her, but Malkele fears that she will have the same fate as her mother, who also was torn away from her sweetheart, Selig, and forced to marry someone else.


SCENE 3

In Flatbush, N.Y., the home of Selig, the sweetheart of Malkele's mother, Selig's old-maid sister, Susel, argues with her mother that Selig still lives with the memories of Leyele, his old-time sweetheart. Selig comes home, and his mother tells him that a countryman from Karitchenitz has arrived with a message from his old home town, but she keeps from him the sad news that his sweetheart, Leyele, is dead. The messenger is none other than Yankele, who now is concert master with the Chicago symphony, and keeping his promise to Selig's mother not to tell him that Leyele is dead, he tells Selig that Leyele's husband is dead, which news prompts Selig to leave for Karitchenitz, where he arrives on the day of Malkele's wedding.

SCENE 4

In Karitchenitz, Yukel Simche, Malkele's bridegroom arrives, later on, Selig and his brother Sidney, who has been studying in Vienna. Selig is greeted by Cheye Toize, the faithful servant of Malkele, and then meets Malkele, whom he at first mistakes for Leyele, her mother. Malkele confides in him that, like her mother, she is being forced to marry against her will and pleads with him to save her from her mother's fate. Selig, feeling obligated to the memory of Leyele, takes advantage of a peculiar situation and saves Malkele from her mother's fate by marrying her, so that he can take her as his wife to her sweetheart in America.

----------

ACT 2

SCENE 1


A few months later, at Selig's summer home on Long Island, preparations are being made to receive Malkele, who is to arrive from Europe with Cheye Tolze, after getting her permit to land in America. Meanwhile, Susel has finally found a sweetheart, a lawyer by the name of Butch, who is the spokesman for a delegation who have come to collect funds for his home town, Sosev, the delegation being Yukel Simche and his guide, Cheiem. Malkele arrives and immediately begins asking Selig to give her a divorce, so that she can marry Yankele, who buy this time has become a composer in Hollywood. But according to Butch, who informs her of the intricate divorce proceedings in America, she is led to believe that Selig has tricked her into marrying him. Selig, to prove to her his sincerity, arranges to bring Yankele, whom Malkele in her imagination sees in Hollywood amidst all the glamorous still faithful to her.
 

SCENE 2

The lawn of Selig's Long Island home, where Selig, in spite of his own love for Malkele, has arranged a reception for Yankele, who finally arrives from Hollywood, only to shatter Malkele's dreams by telling her that he is already married, which brings Malkele to the realization that "what was good enough for her mother, is good enough for her."
 


 


Aaron Lebedeff,
who plays Zelig,
a boss painter



Sam Josephson,
who plays Sidney, Zelig's younger brother
 


Jacob Suzanoff,
who plays Yankel,
a musician



Michael Wilensky,
who plays
Reb Isserl, the Karitchenitz Rabbi



Jacob Zanger,
who plays
Chaim Nissel,
a gabbai (sexton)

 

 


 


Molly Picon,
who plays
Malkele, grand-daughter of
Reb Isserl
 


Gertie Bulman, who plays Julia,
a rich Viennese girl
 


Rose Greenfield, who plays
Dvoyra Lapidus



Tillie Rabinowitz,
who plays Sossel, the older sister
of Zelig
 


Pauline Hoffman, who plays
Chaye Toltze

 

                                                 


CAST PHOTO FROM "MY MALKELE (MY LITTLE MOLLY)"
Public Theatre
New York, New York
Opened 15 September 1937

If you can identify any of the above performers, please contact me at steve@museumoffamilyhistory.com .

From the New York Times Review by William Schack, dated 20 September 1937:

"After seeing, and entertaining, the world for the last two years, Miss Molly Picon made her re-appearance in town at the Public Theatre on Saturday night in a new play 'My Malkele,' which is only another and more affectionate way of saying Molly.

Once more Molly Picon displays her charming mimicry of ghetto types, her easy mastery of song and stage, her gracious withdrawal from the spotlight when it is not intended to be focused on her. There is no disputing her position as First Lady of Second Avenue: no competitors are around..."

One of the songs in this play sung by Aron Lebedeff was "You Taste It and It's Good." According to the reviewer, this was one of the bright spots in Abe Ellstein's score, and when performed it nearly "stopped the show."

 

Standardized transliteration of the English title is "Mayn Malkele".

The cast of the play included Molly Picon, Araon Lebedeff, Lucy Levine, Gertie Bulman, Jacob Sussanoff, Tillie Rabinowitz, Hymie Prisant and Sam Josephson.

Photo, left: Aaron Lebedeff and Molly Picon.
Photo, above: Molly Picon in center, with umbrella.



next William Siegel play: "Bublitchki"  >>>

 

 

 




Photographs courtesy of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance Archives and the Yiddish Forward.

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