Musical (1986)

Musique: Charles Strouse
Paroles: Stephen Schwartz
Livret: Joseph Stein
Production à la création:

With great passion and humor, the story is told of Rebecca, a naive Russian immigrant arriving at Ellis Island with her young son, and their struggle to make a life for themselves in the New World. She goes to work in a sweatshop while searching for her husband who has preceded them to America. When they are finally reunited she discovers that his assimilation is not entirely for the best. His desire to change their name and strip away their ethnic culture so as to fit in with his cronies distresses Rebecca, whose gradual enlightenment leads her into union activities against the very men her husband so hopes to impress. Subplots concern an elderly immigrant, his daughter, and their respective romances, one of which ends tragically. This sweeping saga of awakenings and disappointments, of greed and power, of strength and love is as deeply moving and inspirational a musical as you could hope to present.

The following synopsis applies to the rewritten production and not the show that originally appeared on Broadway. As such, some musical numbers and subplots are not accounted for.

Act One
As a ship bearing hopeful immigrants steams toward Ellis Island, a lone passenger reflects on the life he has left behind ("I Remember"). Rebecca Hershkowitz, a Jewish woman, has fled Russia with her young son David, hoping to find her husband, Nathan, who left for America years before and never wrote back to his family. Rebecca has made friends with Bella Cohen, a teenager emigrating to America with her father Avram ("If We Never Meet Again"); her brother Herschel remains behind in Russia. Bella has fallen in love with Ben, another passenger, but Avram does not approve.

On Ellis Island, the unfeeling immigration officials treat the immigrants like animals ("Greenhorns"). With no male relative to claim them, Rebecca and David are in danger of immediate deportation until Bella begs Avram to rescue her friend. Avram pretends that Rebecca is his niece, and persuades his brother, who lives in a tenement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to let Rebecca and David stay for the night. Bella, Rebecca and David marvel at the strange new sights in the streets below ("Brand New World"). Rebecca still feels lonely, and wishes that she can give her son a real home ("Children of The Wind").

Rebecca searches for her husband and takes a job sewing in a sweatshop, while David helps Rachel, a widow, sell trinkets out of her market stall. Bella works at home as a seamstress; confined to the tenement, she pines for Ben. Ben pretended that he had a wealthy uncle who would provide for him, but in reality, he has no uncle and works in a cigar factory. Avram, though an educated man in "the old country," hawks goods as a street vendor. Even so, the new immigrants remain upbeat ("Penny A Tune"). However, the business owners in the neighborhood are preyed upon by Mr. Rosen, a greedy man who demands they pay him for protection from his thugs.

Saul, a union supporter, confronts Rebecca, urging her to open her eyes to her poor treatment and unfair wages; he suggests that she better herself through education. Saul teaches Rebecca and David how to speak English, and tries to instill American values in them ("Easy For You"). To broaden their horizons, he takes them to see Hamlet as performed by a Jewish theatre troupe ("Hard To Be A Prince"). Rebecca realizes that she is falling in love with Saul ("Blame It On The Summer Night").

Ben comes to visit Bella, and admits he is only a factory worker. He has a new plan, to sell gramophones, and demonstrates one for her ("For My Mary"). As they dance, Avram returns and throws Ben out, forbidding Bella from ever seeing the boy again. Bella flies into a rage and accuses her father of not allowing her to achieve her own American dream ("Rags").

Meanwhile, Nathan, Rebecca's husband, is contemplating his position in the ranks of Tammany Hall, where he is promised great things if he manages to secure the Jewish vote for an anti-union Democratic candidate ("What's Wrong With That?"). He believes his wife is still in Russia until he discovers that she has placed an ad in the paper seeking him.

At the street market, Mr. Rosen comes to collect his bribes from the shopkeepers. Emboldened by the Socialist doctrine Saul has taught him, David stands up for Rachel and is beaten by Rosen's thugs. Rebecca blames Saul for corrupting her son and vows that she won't be fooled by any more idealistic notions of America. Nathan suddenly arrives to collect his wife and son ("Nothing Will Hurt Us Again").

Act Two
Nathan explains to Rebecca and David how he has managed to climb up from the ghetto of the lower East side to a better life ("Yankee Boy"). Rebecca is unsettled that her husband has given himself the American name "Nat Harris" and distances himself from the Jewish community; however, she also likes the idea of having a better life for her son ("Uptown"). She also longs for Saul, though they both realize their love can never be ("Wanting").

Avram and Rachel have fallen in love, enabling Avram to move out of his brother's house and provide Bella with a more stable family life ("Three Sunny Rooms"). Bella and David help Ben sell his "Magic Music Machine" to excited customers ("The Sound Of Love"). The three are natural salesmen, and Bella is delighted to think that soon they will have enough money to marry. To help out, she goes against her father's wishes and takes a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory ("Rags" reprise).

Rebecca accompanies Nathan to a costume party and feels unhappy with her husband, who acts ashamed of her. When David interrupts the party to tell Rebecca of a fire at Bella's shop, Nathan forbids her to leave. Knowing Bella is in danger, she goes anyway, but it is too late. Bella has jumped to her death from the burning building. Avram is destroyed by the death of his daughter, and Rebecca is confused and guilty ("Kaddish").

Rebecca leads the sweatshop workers in a strike protesting the unsafe conditions that lead to the deaths of the girls at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory ("Bread and Freedom"). As the demonstration reaches near-riot levels, Nathan shows up to try and persuade his wife to come home with him. Rebecca sees Saul in the crowd and knows she must follow her heart and stand up for what is right ("Dancing With The Fools"). She refuses Nathan.

Avram is still grieving for Bella and is planning to return to Russia and the son, Herschel, he left behind when Ben comes to pay his respects. He tells Avram that leaving America would mean Bella died for nothing and gives him the gramophone, which plays a recording of Bella's voice. While Rebecca sings of her new life with Saul and David, Rachel and Avram welcome Herschel off the boat as a new wave of immigrants arrive ("Children of The Wind reprise/Finale").

1 Rags peut-être considéré comme un Flop musical

The Broadway production opened on August 21, 1986 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre with little advance sale and to mostly indifferent reviews, and it closed after only four performances (and 18 previews). Directed by Gene Saks and choreographed by Ron Field, the cast included Teresa Stratas as Rebecca Hershkowitz, Larry Kert as Nathan Hershkowitz, Lonny Price as Ben, Judy Kuhn as Bella Cohen, Dick Latessa as Avram Cohen, Marcia Lewis as Rachel Halpern, and Terrence Mann as Saul, a union organizer. Despite its failure, it garnered a good deal of attention during the awards season.

In 1991, Sony released a studio recording of the score. It featured most of the original cast joined by Julia Migenes replacing Stratas.

Revised versions
In 1991 the creators reunited to present a dramatically rewritten and severely streamlined production at The American Jewish Theatre, New York City, directed by Richard Sabellico. The version had 9 actors playing all of the roles, and a reduced set, with two pushcarts on stage and imaginary windows, with the actors describing the exterior activity. The young immigrant mother has a best friend of almost equal importance, and the story is now told by David, the heroine's young son.

The Colony Theatre Company, Los Angeles, California presented Rags in 1993.

They reworked the show again, staging it first at Florida's Coconut Grove Playhouse (February 1999) and then the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in November 1999. The revised version cut the cast to 15, from the original Broadway cast of 30. According to Strouse, "We tried to do too much.And now it's tightened, more focused. People got lost in it...The diffuse, scattered story now centers on Rebecca Hershkowitz, a young immigrant mother who escapes to the Lower East Side after a pogrom, and her love affair with Saul, an American labor organizer trying to unionize the sweatshop where she works...The [original] score was influenced by Middle Eastern, Irish, Scottish, English folk, American honky-tonk, obviously jazz and ragtime and klezmer -- even Greek music of that day, and Broadway, too...It is now 'more impressionistic'."

In 2006, Schwartz, Stein and Strouse collaborated on the World AIDS Day Concert version of the musical, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the show's Broadway opening. The concert was at Times Square's Nokia Theatre and featured Carolee Carmello, Gregg Edelman, Eden Espinosa, Lainie Kazan and Michael Rupert.

Act I
Overture/I Remember
If We Never Meet Again*
Brand New World
Children of the Wind
Penny a Tune
Easy for You
Hard To Be a Prince
Blame It on the Summer Night
For My Mary
What's Wrong with That?
On the Fourth Day of July*^
In America*^
Nothing Will Hurt Us Again

Act II
Cherry Street Cafe^
Yankee Boy
Three Sunny Rooms
The Sound of Love
For My Mary (Reprise)
Democratic Club Dance*
Bread and Freedom
Dancing With the Fools

Aucun dossier informatif complémentaire concernant Rags

Aucun dossier informatif complémentaire concernant Rags

Version 1

Rags (1986-08-Mark Hellinger Theatre -Broadway)

Type de série: Original
Théâtre: Mark Hellinger Theatre (Broadway - Etats-Unis)

Durée :
Nombre : 18 previews - 4 représentations
Première Preview : 05 August 1986
Première: 21 August 1986
Dernière: 23 August 1986
Mise en scène : Gene Saks
Chorégraphie : Ron Field
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Teresa Stratas (Rebecca Hershkowitz), Larry Kert (Nathan Hershkowitz), Lonny Price (Ben), Judy Kuhn (Bella Cohen), Dick Latessa (Avram Cohen), Marcia Lewis (Rachel Halpern), Terrence Mann (Saul, a union organizer)

Version 2

Rags (1992-11-Kenneth More Theatre-London)

Type de série: Original London
Théâtre: Kenneth More Theatre (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée :
Nombre :
Première Preview : Inconnu
Première: 17 November 1992
Dernière: Inconnu
Mise en scène : Vivian Ellacott
Chorégraphie : Loraine Porter
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Laura Nayman (Rebecca), Adam Perl/Simon Parsons (David), Jason Belne (Nathan Hershkowitz), Philip Halpin (Saul), Joann Kenny (Bella Cohen), James Norris (Avram), Jeremy Lynch (Ben Levitowitz), Simon Curtis, Sally Woodfield
Commentaires : “Rags” opened on Broadway on August 21st 1986 and closed three nights and one matinee later - by any reckoning a major flop. Between the matinee and evening on the last day the cast organised a protest march down Broadway calling for the show to be saved. Seven months after it closed most of the cast were re-assembled to make a recording of music from the show (though the original leading lady, opera singer Teresa Stratas, was not available and was replaced by another opera diva, Julia Migenes.) This CD earned much respect and led to a much smaller-scale (two pianos only) version being re-written for the off-Broadway American Jewish Theatre in the summer of 1991.
This production at the Kenneth More Theatre was the British premiere, and was re-assembled with bits from both previous American versions. It attracted much interest and was attended by several British and European managers with a view to further European productions. Sadly, none materialised.

Version 3

Rags (1996-06-Spitalfields Market Opera-London)

Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Spitalfields Market Opera (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée :
Nombre :
Première Preview : 18 June 1996
Première: 18 June 1996
Dernière: 23 June 1996
Mise en scène : Raymond Wright • Barry Hooper
Chorégraphie :
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Jill Gardner (Rebecca), Lee Wright/ Daryl Fox (David), Terry Ashwell (Older David), Richard Reece (Nathan Hershkowitz), Simon Rothman (Saul), Gill Hack (Bella Cohen), Denis Steer (Avram), Josh Rochford (Ben Levitowitz),
Commentaires : Notes: The original 1986 Broadway production closed after only four performances (and 18 previews) and a dramatically rewritten and streamlined production was created in 1991 and performed at The American Jewish Theatre, New York City. This version had 9 actors playing all of the roles, and a reduced set, with two pushcarts on stage and imaginary windows, with the actors describing the exterior activity. The music was provided by two pianos. The story was now told in retrospect by the Older David, the heroine's young son.
The first UK production, at the Kenneth More Theatre in 1992 was basically the original 1986 version with one or two amendments from the 1991 re-write. This version at the Spitalfields Market Opera was the 1991 version but instead of 9 actors playing many different parts, it was enlarged with a cast of 25 and with an orchestra rather than a piano score. Accordingly, it counted as the fourth different version of this show.

Version 4

Rags (1999-11-Paper Mill Playhouse-Milburn)

Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Paper Mill Playhouse (Milburn - Etats-Unis)
Durée : 1 mois 1 semaine
Nombre :
Première Preview : 03 November 1999
Première: 05 November 1999
Dernière: 12 December 1999
Mise en scène : Jeffrey N. Moss
Chorégraphie : Barbabra Siman
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Jonathan Andrew Bleicher (David Hershkowitz), Marilyn Caskey (Rebecca Hershkowitz), M. Kathryn Quinlan (Bella Cohen), Christopher Bishop (Avram Cohen), Caesar Samayoa (Ben), Raymond McLeod (Saul), Wayne LeGette (Nathan Hershkowitz), Hunter Bell (Mikhel), Peter Cormican (Immigration Officer), Darin DePaul (Cigar Recruiter

Version 5

Rags (2001-11-Bridewell Theatre-London)

Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Bridewell Theatre (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée : 1 mois
Nombre :
Première Preview : 02 November 2001
Première: 02 November 2001
Dernière: 02 December 2001
Mise en scène : Matthew White
Chorégraphie : Norma Atallah
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Cast: Sally Ann Triplett (Rebecca), Louis Constantine/Sam Morris (David), David Bardsley (Nathan Hershkowitz), Davor Golub (Saul), Alicia Davies (Bella Cohen), John Levitt (Avram), Jon-Paul Hevey (Ben Levitowitz), Susan Humphries, Sarah Counsell, Gareth Williams
Commentaires : This was the third time “Rags” had been staged in London, and it was also the third different version of the show. This time the production reverted to the (original) 1986 Broadway version as far as the running-order and plot development was concerned, but combined this with the cut-down scenery and reduced cast numbers of the rewritten 1991 American Jewish Theatre version. This Bridewell version used a four-piece Klezmer band (the other versions had been scored for full orchestra and two pianos respectively.) As always, the show received mixed notices, but there was unanimous praise for Sally Ann Triplett as Rebecca.

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