On Second Avenue @ Segal Centre
Yiddish. On Second Avenue is in Yiddish. Having not researched that before attending, I was rather surprised…but in a good way! The show celebrates Yiddish theatre and the Jewish culture that holds it dear. You’re reading this blog, so you likely have a sense that theatre is a wonderful medium for keeping a culture alive and bringing communities together. Second Avenue no doubt makes that point extremely clear in showing that their popular theatre kept the Yiddish people working, happy, and connected even during terribly homesick times.
The show starts on an energetic musical number set in Romania in 1876. The song sweeps the audience into this Jewish culture where arts, drinking, dancing and general merriment are revered. This is the community, the large family – the place of happiness. We’re introduced to what a traditional Yiddish theatre piece might look like – this play in a play was stylised and melodramatic, both funny and dramatic. A certain sign of things to come, as the Yiddish people moved from home out over the world – the primary focus being in New York, on 2nd Avenue (go figure). The rest of the show serves as an exposition of the happy and funny sides of Yiddish theatre and the sad, longing side, and ends up as a nice overview on the feelings and values of the culture, albeit without going TOO in depth.
My reaction to the show was pretty positive. I thought it was funny when it needed to be, providing good release from the sad sections that sometimes dragged on a bit long (though it’s entirely possible I just needed to laugh last night). The narrator tied the story together well, and kept things rolling along nicely. Some acts shined – namely, those featuring the older comedic actors with impeccable timing – while others were not as strong. The show felt somewhat static at times, and could have done with more sophisticated movement to keep our attention moving. However, On Second Avenue’s cast is huge, so it is understandable that it wasn’t perfect. Finally, there ARE subtitles in both English and Français. So don’t worry, you’ll understand – it can take your focus at times, but these subtitles are SO necessary.
All in all, On Second Avenue is a fun and quite enjoyable night of musical theatre. You’ll laugh, you’ll feel some of the community’s pain, and you’ll get that music stuck in your bones. It’s all worth it. Fantastic to see theatre that knows how powerful and important arts culture is in keeping people together.
On Second Avenue plays until July 1st at the Segal Centre, tickets are $22.