The Chosen was originally produced in 1988 by M. Square Entertainment at the Second Avenue Theatre in New York City.
Review of "The Chosen" June 19, 1999
In New York City, the Merkin Hall concert version of the off-Broadway score based on Chaim Potoks best-selling novel
Music by Philip Springer Lyrics by Mitchell Bernard
The Westsider June 24-30, 1999
New York City
A Tale of Two Orthodoxies
Adaptation of "The Chosen" High Point of Evening at Merkin
By Daniel Meltzer
Destined, it seems, to an indefinite period of homelessness akin to the Diaspora of the characters who populate it, the musical adaptation of Chaim Potoks novel "The Chosen" unpacked its rucksack, if briefly, last Friday night, June 19, at Merkin Concert Hall on the Upper West Side.
Selections from the score were sung and performed by a cast of singers and a small orchestra as part of an evening of songs by the shows composer, Philip Springer.
The recital began with world premieres of three art songs by Springer, set to texts by Frederick Douglass, Emily Dickinson and one anonymous author. They were elegantly performed by soprano Margaret Astrup and baritone Dorian Gray Ross, who were accompanied by the ensemble and pianist Maria Antonia Garcia.
The bulk of the program and the center of the audiences interest, however, were the selections from "The Chosen", the ill-fated 1988 musical based on Potoks novel about the friendship of two Jewish boys in Brooklyn that is undermined by the conflicting orthodoxies of their religious parents.
The original production of "The Chosen" played 61 previews and gave eight performances after its official opening at the Second Avenue Theatre on the Lower East Side after disappointing reviews and has not been revived. The original cast included Rob Morrow, George Hearn and Ron Holgate, and the show was staged by veteran Broadway Director Carmen Capalbo.
Romantic and lyrical in nature, more imaginative and intelligent that those in any new musical staged here since, "The Chosens" songs, with witty and poetic lyrics by Mitchell Bernard, movingly tell the story of growing up, friendship, young romance and the questioning of faith. It is set in the late 1940s, during the time of the founding of the state of Israel, a period that bitterly divided Jews around the world over interpretations of scared texts on the subject of if and when the Diaspora, or wanderings, of world Jewry should, in fact, end.
Saturdays performances were well rehearsed and, with the exception of the closing chorus number, sung without book. Most notable in the cast were bass-baritone Don Sheasley as a rabbi and father of one of the boys; baritone Thomas Meglioranza as his sons unorthodox friend; and mezzo-soprano Sadie Dawkins, whose brief romance also comes undone because of the conflict over religious beliefs.
It says much of Bernards lyrics that the outlines of the shows plot were apparent from the songs themselves. The music is consistently melodious and notably lacking in schmaltz. There was no narrator. Others in the fine and handsome cast included tenor Aaron Bond and guitarist-singers Renae Eidem, Paul Helou and Benjamin Damiano.
Fridays audience of about 200 seemed genuinely moved and gave the ensemble an enthusiastic ovation at evenings end. Some expressed the hope the show might be staged again, although no such plan seems to be in the works. At minimum, most present seemed to agree that a recording of the worthy score would be a welcome addition to their CD collections.