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The Rolland Theatre
(later the Parkway Theatre)
1768 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn, NY
This production opened on September 24, 1928.


(The Song of Love)

by Louis Freiman, music by Sholom Secunda


The following review, written by Ab. Cahan for the Yiddish Forward newspaper, was first published on September 28, 1928. This show opened the Rolland Theatre. Here is the review:

As the reader already knows, the theatre manager William Rolland has built a new theatre in Brownsville. It is a large building, like the large theatre buildings on Second Avenue. The theatre opened Monday evening. But the truth about the opening, one can say, is that it was Tuesday and Wednesday, when [the production] was played for representatives of the press, and for golden guests. For both evenings there was a large audience. I attended the performance on Tuesday evening. A large, beautiful theatre, finely illuminated, a large stage with colorful sets, with electric effects, and brightly colored costumes.

It shone, it blazed. The operetta with which the large Brownsville theatre was revived is called "The Song of Love." It is up to the reader to explain that this is just a name you can give to any other operetta. If you want, you can reverse it and say that the name is "The Song of Love" and also that it will be all right as it is. Or, if not, you could easily call it "Caucasus, Mexico, Lita, and Hester Street." This would probably have been more convenient. For in these four states (if Hester Street is also a state) come the acts and the turns. In any case, if they are all mentioned on stage, would you still ask why the writer chose the Caucasus and Mexico? Is the excuse that the people there wear colorful costumes? The hero, we are told, has lived in the Caucasus for a long time, and this is considered a satisfactory excuse for why he should wear a white silk cape with a white high-feathered hat, and why he should carry a sword -- whether he finds himself on the floor or not. So do the true Cherkesens, and so do "Cherkesens" who play in certain operettas on Second Avenue, as do the Cherkes who plays in an operetta in Brownsville.

The essence of the story consists of this -- that the hero's father has a bride, and that in truth she is completely in love with his son. The father went with the beautiful girl to the wedding canopy, but a minute before the marriage ceremony, he was forced to submit the bride to his son, that is, to the hero of the Caucasus, Mexico, Lita and Hester Street.

There are, naturally, many details, but it is not necessary to give them all here, as it occurs on the stage. For the main thing is not the event, not the costumes, with the songs, with the dances, with the electric lighting. In truth I should say that I think that I have seen the same story somewhere before, but without Michalesko. Here we have Michalesko, and he is a handsome young man with a handsome figure, and what a fluffy costume he shouldn't wear, it sings on him. All the more when the costumes consist of lovely, light fabrics! Therefore, the star sang on stage and the costumes sang on the star.

But laughter aside, from an operetta one does not expect literature, no character imagery, no original events --- not even those breathtaking melodramatic "machinations" that one finds in a successful shund play with music. People are having fun. One can see people dancing and hear people singing. Take a look at a different set of costumes and theatrical performances every five minutes, and you'll get it in full in the "Song of Love," or in the "Love of Song."

The Yiddish operetta has worked it out in its own way, and here in America last year it developed a special Yiddish-American manner. It is a sort of "musical comedy," and this is like the operetta that we are speaking about here. It is a little less American than is the average of our new plays. The general character of it is the same, as is the general character of the "musical comedies" that we see on Second Avenue.

There is one thing that is missing in comparison to the latter, and that is couplets.

The couplet-singing is a very important part of our operettas. The happy moments of the production in the theatre occur when the darling actors sing the funny songs. In these plays that have virtually no couplets, it is probably felt that Michalesko and the managers will correct this error, because their operetta is a bit monotone.

There is a couple of quite lively scenes, interesting pieces of music, dance and colorful effects. The strongest impression is made in a scene in which there is weaved in the melody of a famous French song, a kind of opposing melody. The song was written several years ago in Paris, and it easily had success across the entire world; here it was sung and played. [review continued below ...]

Left: Michal Michalesko, as the Caucasian lover, in the "rich musical production of 'Song of Love.' "

Above: Michal Michalesko and Lucy Levin in a passionate love scene.

Right: Michal Michalesko and Lucy Levin in a "wedding ring."

The song is a little old-fashioned, but it is always piquant. And the musician, Mr. Secunda, brought this tenor into the operetta in conjunction with an optional dance, and with all the "machinations" that go along with it. This is after a couple of scenes where the music, in connection with the playing of colorful dance and movement. This is very impressive.

Michalesko is, naturally, the central figure of the entire production. From the moment that he appears, he is almost always on stage. He sings, he dances, he creates various types of cantors. There is never any "slack" with him. He has a good voice, and he doesn't sing badly. He has a handsome figure, a handsome face; and he doesn't dance badly; and to everyone he has a pleasant personality. In real life in social circles, Michalesko always makes a good impression, and his personal charm, helps a lot with his success on the stage. He is a sympathetic actor. He is what the Americans call a "matinee idol," that is, an actor who attracts the ladies to matinee productions. For what matinee performances exactly? It is an excuse: who has the time to go by day to the theatre, if not the women?

Michalesko was a great success in Warsaw, and afterwards he came to New York, where he had success on Second Avenue, and later, when he played in Brownsville, he had an easy success there . What an actor has ... is a permanent Brownsville theatre. This Monday he gave a speech, and the speech also made a good impression. It is rare for an actor to give an actor-like speech, and Michalesko's speech was not one of an actor. He spoke like an ordinary person, like he'd be talking to a close friend at home -- without doing tricks, and with a pleasant, natural fun.

The company of the theatre is large. On stage, it revolves around several unmarried couples,  ... a pair of unmarried couples, and again another pair of unmarried couples. When you ask such questions, the answer will always be the same: the role consists of singing, dancing, and spoken words, which you hear in virtually every operetta, and in every cheap shund-drama.

One of the actors, for example, is Louie Birnbaum. When you see him in a difficult drama, he gives an impression of an actor who has the abilities to speak on the stage as a real person, and mainly to play with a naturalness, which does not conform to the production's life and power. Here he is, poor thing, an operetta actor. So, everything that can be said about him is that he also has a handsome figure, that he is comfortable and the costumes look good on him.

Jacob Wexler also has played entirely so-so in a comic role on the stage. Here he also has comic role. It is, however, an operettic role, and it should be said that he must make the audience crazy to amusing.

An actor with the name of Sam Gerstenzang has a similar role, and the two are "a team." They run around, springing and screaming together, Wexler as the first fiddle, and Gerstanzang as the second.

The second main comic is Jacob Rechtzeit, a young man with nimble movements, and with quite a dry fire.

In the play Nettie Tobias plays, and she is one of the talented actresses on the Yiddish stage. In certain, important plays she makes a type of impression that lovers of Yiddish theatre think about when they get home. Here she needs to play in a cheap, old role; but even in this one sees her temperament, and the special, stronger rhythm of her acting. As an actress, in truth, she has nothing to play with.

Lucy Levin plays here as the main soubrette. She is the "heroine of the story." She is this beautiful girl who one chooses to lead to the wedding canopy with her father, and who will marry his son. In the high tenor her voice sounds strong and pleasing. In the lower [tenor] she is much weaker. She is, however, young and beautiful, with a good figure, and when she is with her beloved hero, Michalesko, both are finely dressed, descending from heaven on a large golden ring, and the music that plays is a holiday melody, and the electric flames flame, and in their hearts they have joy, and they are both released unscathed.

A second soubrette is Annie Lubin. In the play she is called Hashke. Let there be Hashke! This is a girl with temperament, and when she has a chance to be on the stage, let's hear and see her.

The same can be said for a third soubrette, an actress with the name of Anna Grushkoff. She also has temperament.

Also playing were Pauline Hoffman and David Baratz.

Left: An interesting quartet: rt. to lt.: Louis Birnbaum, Anna Grushkoff, Jacob Rechtzeit and Annie Lubin.

Above: A comic trio: Nettie Tobias, Jacob Wexler and Sam Gerstenzang.


Louis Birnbaum and Anna Grushkoff and the chorus in a tango dance in Mexico.

Michal Michalesko and Lucy Levin, together with the chorus, in a Romanian cabaret.


The entire ensemble in the final scene of the play.


The chorus of "shikses" in a Russian dance.




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