(photo credit: YOAV ROSA)
Yossele Rosenblatt (Ukraine 1882 – Jerusalem 1933), dubbed the Jewish Caruso, is considered the greatest cantor of his time, bar none. He was also a prolific composer whose liturgies are sung to this day.
Rosenblatt Express tells the story of his life in a series of scenelets that illustrate the major events of his life from his humble beginnings in a Ukraine shtetl, to his growing fame and prestigious appointments in Europe, to his dizzying success in the US, to his equally dizzying economic ruin and slow climb back, to his death of a heart attack while on a filmed concert tour of the Holy Land in 1933.
Daniel Botzar beautifully underplays Rosenblatt. Stoop-shouldered, always anxious, obstinate, impulsive, terminally decent, genuinely devout, his Rosenblatt seems to us a man whom life tends always to outstrip a bit.
Neta Bar-Rafael is sympathetic as his wife, and the rest of the seven-member cast nimbly tackle all the rest of the characters, from Yossele’s father, to rabbis, to thugs, not forgetting Enrico Caruso (who admired him) and Sam Warner, who gave Yossele a bit part in the world’s first talking picture, The Jazz Singer.
Rosenblatt’s colorful life is a marvelous subject for a play, but not this one. It would benefit from the adage that less is more. Too much is stuffed into the play’s increasingly tedious 90 minutes. It tells us in detail what Yossele does, but not so much why he does it, or who he is