THE RISE OF DAVID LEVINSKY was a piece the late Isaiah Sheffer created. His widow and daughter spoke beforehand about the lengthy process of making the musical. It was a stage reading, which I imagined to be a snippet of a full show. Nobody ever told me a stage reading was a two and a half hour rendition. If I had known, I would have prepared my mind.
The story tells of a boy, David, who emigrated from Russia to America. He has no money and decides to throw himself into work as a garment manufacturer. Along the way he falls in love with his good friend’s wife and becomes ruthless; not paying his employees enough, treating the work place much like a sweatshop and having no regard for his closest friends and business partners.
There was a lot of Jewish banter, which was welcomed by most of the crowd. However, for an outsider, many things did not make sense. If your target audience is Jewish families, who get a slew of inside jokes, it may be a hit. A few women sitting next to me murmured “There are so many bad shows on Broadway, this is true art.” I sighed and thought this piece was nowhere near phenomenal.
The casting was interesting to say the least. Thirteen actors, one piano, chairs and music stands filled the stage. There were one or two people who shined, the rest seemed poor choices. The song about coming to America was the most interesting and entertaining. The lyrics and phrasing were a nice blend. Many of the other songs were too full of rhymes, folksy or bland for my taste.
This musical created from a book was confusing. We meet David as a young boy as well as his conscious or ghost of an older version of himself giving him advice. After intermission, the roles reverse. At the end there was a line that said “the boy will make peace with the man.” Fine but how about the boy will make peace with his faith? During the majority of the show he was clearly Jewish, at the very end he threw a curve ball and started to talk about Darwin. So what are you? Who are you? Why should I care? Those questions must be addressed.
Does this show have a chance to make it on Broadway? I doubt it but a good portion of the audience loved it. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Ranking: Not To Be