You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The People in the Picture

Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn't necessarily ensure entertainment.

With:
Doovie Feldman - Hal Robinson Moishe Rosenwald - Alexander Gemignani Chayesel Fisher - Joyce Van Patten Yossie Pinsker - Chip Zien Avram Krinsky - Lewis J. Stadlen Chaim Bradovsky - Christopher Innvar Jenny - Rachel Resheff Bubbie/Raisel - Donna Murphy Red - Nicole Parker Dr. Goldblum - Louis Hobson Young Red - Andie Mechanic

The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with “The People in the Picture.” Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn’t necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail.

Root of the problem stems from book and lyrics by Iris Rainer Dart, a novelist (“Beaches”) making her Broadway bow. Story tells of Yiddish actress Raisel Rabinowitz — approaching senility and death in Greenwich Village — racing against time to tell her granddaughter Jennie about her comrades who were killed in the Warsaw ghetto. The so-called people in the picture are living ghosts, walking and dancing and singing their tales (circa 1935) to the little girl (circa 1977).

Dart has somehow seen fit to get music from the composer of “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog.” Mike Stoller, whose songs with Jerry Leiber sparked the long-running “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” herewith makes his book musical debut at the age of 78. He is joined by one of his proteges, Artie Butler, who provides music for four songs. But the tunes, while not as catchy as Stoller’s “Jailhouse Rock” and “Stand by Me,” are not the problem; the die is cast in Dart’s very first lyric, which rhymes “skittish” with “Yiddish,” “see us” with “ideas.”

Director Leonard Foglia (“Master Class”) seems not to have had much creative input on the meandering piece. What’s more, someone should have restrained the artsy choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (“In the Heights”), which is built on ersatz “Fiddler on the Roof” moves and at times borders on the laughable.

Murphy plays the aged Bubbie extremely well, and in a flashback — playing a young girl whose body is inhabited by a Dybbuk (devil) while surrounded by four dancing rabbis — seems to channel Fanny Brice. The star is so good and so funny here that we can perhaps understand why she was attracted to the role.

But other than two of these zany flashbacks and one effective, especially dramatic ballad (“Selective Memory”) from Murphy, it’s a long evening filled with threadbare melodramatic machinations. Book perks up in the last 20 minutes, bringing tears to many in the audience, but it’s too little too late.

Veteran funnymen Lewis J. Stadlen and Chip Zien pull through as minor members of the Warsaw players, handily compensating for subpar material. Alexander Gemignani is impressive in a dramatic role, and the 10-year-old Rachel Resheff is very good as Murphy’s granddaughter. Also on hand is Joyce Van Patten, who herself played a major kid role in Broadway’s first anti-Nazi play, the 1943 “Tomorrow the World.”

The musical’s scheduled November 2009 tryout, under the title “Laughing Matters,” was bumped from the Pasadena Playhouse in favor of “Baby It’s You!,” which opened on Broadway the night before “People in the Picture.” In this case, a developmental tryout would surely have helped.

The People in the Picture

Studio 54; 988 seats; $122 top

Production: A Roundabout Theater Company, in association with Tracy Aron, Al Parinello, Stefany Bergson, presentation of a musical in two acts with music by Mike Stoller and Artie Butler, book and lyrics by Iris Rainer Dart. Directed by Leonard Foglia, choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler. Music direction, Paul Gemigniani.

Creative: Sets, Riccardo Hernandez; costumes, Ann Hould-Ward; lights, James F. Ingalls; sound, Dan Moses Schreier; projections, Elaine J. McCarthy; orchestrations, Michael Starobin; dance music, Alex Lacamoire; production stage manager, Peter Wolf. Opened April 28, 2011, reviewed April 23. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast: Doovie Feldman - Hal Robinson Moishe Rosenwald - Alexander Gemignani Chayesel Fisher - Joyce Van Patten Yossie Pinsker - Chip Zien Avram Krinsky - Lewis J. Stadlen Chaim Bradovsky - Christopher Innvar Jenny - Rachel Resheff Bubbie/Raisel - Donna Murphy Red - Nicole Parker Dr. Goldblum - Louis Hobson Young Red - Andie MechanicWith: Jeremy Davis, Emilee Dupre, Maya Goldman, Shannon Lewis, Jessica Lea Patty, Megan Reinking, Jeffrey Schecter, Paul Anthony Stewart

More Legit

  • Hello, Dolly! Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Return to Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!'

    The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with “The People in the Picture.” Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn’t necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail. Root of the problem stems from book and lyrics by Iris Rainer […]

  • My Fair Lady review

    Broadway Review: 'My Fair Lady'

    The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with “The People in the Picture.” Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn’t necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail. Root of the problem stems from book and lyrics by Iris Rainer […]

  • Tony Awards: Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban

    Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban to Host 2018 Tony Awards

    The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with “The People in the Picture.” Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn’t necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail. Root of the problem stems from book and lyrics by Iris Rainer […]

  • New York Mayor's Office women

    New York Mayor's Office Details New $5 Million Women's Fund for Film, Theater

    The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with “The People in the Picture.” Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn’t necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail. Root of the problem stems from book and lyrics by Iris Rainer […]

  • Tina review

    West End Review: Tina Turner Musical 'Tina'

    The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with “The People in the Picture.” Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn’t necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail. Root of the problem stems from book and lyrics by Iris Rainer […]

  • Jamie Parker Harry Potter

    Stagecraft Podcast: 'Cursed Child's' Jamie Parker on Joining the 'Harry Potter' Universe

    The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with “The People in the Picture.” Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn’t necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail. Root of the problem stems from book and lyrics by Iris Rainer […]

  • 2018 National Playwrights Conference

    Beth Henley, J.T. Rogers and Sarah DeLappe Set for 2018 O'Neill Playwrights Conference

    The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with “The People in the Picture.” Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn’t necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail. Root of the problem stems from book and lyrics by Iris Rainer […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content