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Lyric Theatre
16-18 Seigel Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
This production opened on December 25, 1928.
 

"ROSE FROM CHINATOWN"
by William Siegel, music by Benjamin Blank

 

The following somewhat negative review, written by L. Fogelman, appears in the Yiddish Forward newspaper of December 25, 1928.

Not new is the operetta, "Rose From Chinatown," which now appears in the Lyric Theatre. It is an old acquaintance, and nothing new is found in it, not even a remedy.

Its content is as old as the Jewish exile, and also as old is her dramatic structure. Again a lost woman with a child. Again a suicide. Again a meeting of a father with his unknown daughter. Again a silly love panned, and once more the eternal marriage ceremony at the end of the last act.

The author has not produced any new words, not one new scene, not one new action, not one original joke, and not one new incidence. Repeatedly and retold the same story hundreds of times with the same melodramatic milksop.

The majority of Yiddish writers of melodramas and operettas, who have controlled the Yiddish stage for the last number of years create very dramatic" works, according to a definite recipe, which a playwright, a cripple, once wrote for them; and one writes over the other. They steal from themselves, they turn on the old muddle. The old story, here and there, and a strange helplessness is felt, a poverty of fantasy and a tastelessness.

Every sign of naturalness is driven from the stage, and an ending! We do not expect strict adherence to content, and no particular naturalness (although in truth it is forbidden if it would harm the other), but to us there is also a limit; who is obliged to swallow excessively suspicious substances, when a light, hilarious musical comedy wants to be heard. In order to hear some singing numbers, and to see some dance numbers, one must at the same time swallow the bitter fullness of a nonsensical melodramatic entanglement ...

I would like to convey the contents of "Rose From Chinatown," but I do not want to live in the repetition of the same old story -- a man leaves his wife with a child; the woman commits suicide; this child grows up with strangers, and years later meets with her unknown, rich father, and at the same time falls in love with her father's blooming son from his second wife. It covers up, of course, a nice little miracle, it plants out a nice, little bomb on the stage, and it ends with a happy peace.


This is "Rose From Chinatown." yes, an old, well-known story; the only difference is that here the child becomes educated by a Chinese in a Chinese manner.

Is it perhaps that the Chinese and the Chinese world give a little "pep" to the operetta? I do not believe so. On the contrary, I think it will bother you a lot. Instead of speaking a "Yiddish Yiddish," or an English Yiddish, such a language is spoken there, that it literally grills in the ears. It is not any kind of Yiddish, nor any kind of English, and not any kind of Chinese. It is a type of "chop suey" language, which can only be painted in a Yiddish operetta.

Betty Frank, who plays the main role of Ching Fu, the young girl, who is educated by Chinese, speaks something fluently in a childish language: "You love me ... I love you ... I stab you ... I die ... You live," etc., and she frowns like a widow with a five-year-old only son. According to the role she is an adolescent, young girl, who has headed out [in life] without a mother. From where does this half-childish language come from? No, this generally is not any kind of language: as they say "speaking in Turkish." And this breaks and suffocates the air. In general, this was not one of Betty Frank's best roles.

We come out to see her in other roles, where she manifests dramatic abilities, temperament and taste. Unfortunately, I can not say that about her current role of Ching Fu. By the way, there was nothing to shine on. The role has not given her any great opportunity to show her acting abilities. The best act is the second, which has more color and life.

photo: Betty Frank.

Harry Miller has played tolerably, and it would be better if he was more interested in the stage than in the audience ...

At times Ida Dworkin has touching moments in her playing, when she has an appropriate role. But there are few of you that came out to be played.

Henrietta Jacobson  performed lively in her role of a young, "Spanish" girl Nicolina. She shows in the role humor and temperament. I think that according to her abilities she is more adapted to such comic roles, as well as other dramatic roles that come to her to play.

Clara Gold and Solomon Kustin amuse the audience as the older, cheerful couple.

Morris Tuchband was the boy who is surrounded by a pair of young girls. He is actually torn away from them in pieces, and the role of his "destruction", he performed cheerfully, in a comical manner.

Leon Zeidenberg has not have a large role as a captain, which he played not badly.

Bella Lawrence is a lively, moving soubrette, but at times she falls into it, unfortunately, in a little vulgar tone, and overacts.

Also having roles are Aaron Soffe (one of the Chinese), Harry Cohen (a policeman), and P. Phillip.

The music is written by Benjamin Blank, who also has staged the operetta. The musical numbers are pleasant to hear; he has exploited some of the Chinese nigunim (religious melodies),  which have a strange sound. This was a consolation to the troubled content of the operetta.
 

 

 

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