Bar Mitzvah Boy
Thursday 10th March 2016 saw the first ever UK revival of Bar Mitzvah Boy. The musical is based on the 1976 BBC play and Aria Entertainment present a scaled down version of the original musical. It tells of Eliot Green who is preparing to make his Bar Mitzvah and escapes from the Synagogue at the vital moment. It looks at his family’s reaction to the lead up to the Bar Mitzvah and his subsequent escape.
The original composer is Jules Styne and lyrics by Don Black. Don Black has also written new songs for this production and David Thompson has produced a revised version of Jack Rosenthal’s original book.
The show focuses on the upcoming Bar Mitzvah and consequently stirring up many laughs with anecdotes that Jewish members of the audience could relate to. Despite this it still struck a chord with me (a non-Jewish audience member) having planned my wedding less than a year ago. This was part of what is successful with this show; that anyone who has gone through an important event or milestone can probably relate to this show in one form or another.
Bar Mitzvah Boy is an intimate show with a focus on the characters within the piece rather than a fast paced plot and despite the solid casting parts of Act 1 did drag. However the cast did captured my attention right from their initial entrances. My standout performance had to be from Nicholas Corre who played Harold, the boyfriend to Eliot Green’s older sister, Lesley. Harold is the antithesis to all the craziness going on around him from the rest of the family. I immediately felt for him and enjoyed his number ‘The Harold’s of this World,’ and enjoyed his geeky, eager to please ways and mannerisms. Sue Kelvin and Robert Maskell played Rita & Victor Green, Eliot’s parents. They were easily believable as a married couple and some of their exchanges were particular highlights. Young Adam Bregman who plays the Bar Mitzvah Boy himself Eliot Green also gave a self –assured performance of someone going through a dilemma of what it really means to become a man.
The music was pleasant and some of the more traditional Jewish melodies that came through enhanced the feeling of occasion. I also liked the catchy refrain from ‘This Time Tomorrow’ and the staging of this around the family dinner table. There were however very few numbers that I could now hum back to you, which to me is always a sign of the success or not of the music in a musical.
Overall it is a quaint piece driven forward by the cast’s strong characterisation and comic timing…a thoroughly enjoyable way to while away the evening.
Bar Mitzvah Boy runs at Upstairs at he Gatehouse until the 10th April and is also on at the Radlett Centre on the 16th and 17th April.