It Shoulda Been You
now in Yiddish (mostly)
Popular Broadway musical shoulda been in Yiddish from the start
By Byron Toben
Broadway hit It Shoulda Been You, dealing with a Jewish family and a wedding, written in English, shoulda been done in Yiddish. And now it is, thanks to the translation prowess of Segal Centre stalwarts Aron Gonshor and Edit Kuper.
As Segal Centre Artistic Director Lisa Rubin expounds in her program welcome, sometimes it’s just better in Yiddish. Besides, many of these colourful words don’t quite translate well into English… witness kvetch, chutzpah, mensch or schlep. (if you don’t know these words, contact me. Even though I do not speak Yiddish, I know those particular expressions which have sort of “crossed over”.
This show is the annual Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre production, which has recently increased its percentage of English in shows like its World Yiddish premiere of The Producers. In any event, the excellent supertitles in both English and French provide guidance in both official languages.
Anyway, in a musical, the music is the thing, This one has eighteen songs, sung by fifteen principals and nine ensemble members, all of whom also dance with great zest and energy as Segal audiences have become accustomed to.
… sometimes it’s just better in Yiddish. Besides, many of these colourful words don’t quite translate well into English… witness kvetch, chutzpah, mensch or schlep.
Director and choreographer Jim White does not disappoint. In his Director’s note, he quotes, as to the plot, Shakespeare… “The course of true love never did run smooth.” ( I prefer Shaw’s quip that “Marriage is the most licentious of all human institutions, and that is the secret of its popularity.”)
Anyway, quotes aside, the plot starts out with overtones of The Graduate, wherein a former boyfriend, Marty (Mikey Samra) tries to breakup the wedding of a former girlfriend Rebecca (Naomi Krajden).
Marty was the preferred suitor of Rebecca by her parents Murray (Sam Stein) and Judy (Karen Karpman), hence, the title song sung to Marty by the parents and doddering Uncle Morty (Stan Unger) and boozing Auntie Sheila (Karyn Pellatt-Caron).
Rebecca’s older sister, Jenny (Rosie Callaghan) is happy for her sister, but somewhat jealous as she is now over thirty without a mate in sight. Ms. Callaghan, well known for her singing, handles two songs backed up by the company, two duets and two solos of which one, Jenny’s Blues, shows her disappointment.
To boot, the groom, Brian (Justin Muniz) comes from an uptight less expressive wasp family whose father, George (Merv Middling) hates to hug and whose mother Georgette (Joanne Cutler) reluctantly accepts the mixed marriage.
Not a weak link in the casting with Brian’s best man, Greg (Mike Melino) and Rebecca’s best lady Annie (Cheryl-Ann Lilieth) singing a fine duet, Love You to the Day.
‘I’m not sure if creators Brian Hargrove and Barbara Anselmi managed to trek to Montreal from New York to witness this Yiddish adaptation of their baby, but I’m sure they would love it…’
Additional comic relief is provided by the event organizer, Albert (Marc-Andre Poulin) and assistant Walt (Moishe Campbell).
Where did casting coordinator Rachelle Glait find all these perfect fits? Sam Stein and Karen Karpman were easy, being long time favourites of the Dora Wasserman troupe. Others had various affiliations with the Segal Centre and quite a few previously unknown to me. We were pleased to see Segal Media Relations contact Melanie Thompson drafted on stage as a member of the singing and dancing ensemble.
I’m not sure if creators Brian Hargrove (book and lyrics) and Barbara Anselmi (music and concept) managed to trek to Montreal from New York to witness this Yiddish adaptation of their baby, but I’m sure they would love it, especially backed by the peppy seven-person band led by music director Nick Burgess.
It Shoulda Been You runs at the Segal Centre until June 25.
514 739-7944 or segalcentre.org
Images: Andrée Lanthier
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Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.