Review: ‘The Gold’ at the New York Musical Festival in NYC

For Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Philip Yosowitz, the story he weaves in The Gold, a fictional history of the impact the Holocaust had on one extended family of German Jews, is very personal. His own father escaped the Nazi terror in his native Czechoslovakia to begin a new life in America; many of his relatives did not survive. While the subject of the show, with music and lyrics by Yosowitz and a book by Yosowitz and Andrea Lepcio, is one that must never be forgotten, its structure, as presented this week in the New York Musical Festival, is one that needs further refinement.

 1.Steven Grant Douglas and Josh Davis. Photo by Jeremy Daniel Photography.
Steven Grant Douglas and Josh Davis. Photo by Jeremy Daniel Photography.

The two-hour musical has been developed from Yosowitz’s original 450-page manuscript, which began with the 1936 Olympic trials and ended 36 years later, with the Munich Massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 games. Now concluding in Israel in 1955, with the impassioned anthem “Never Again” sung by the entire company, the present edited version, directed by Spiro Velpoudos, consists of a series of increasingly choppy vignettes and many short songs, which lack narrative flow, intimate focus, and a full fleshing out of the characters and situations.

Yosowitz’s title refers to lead character Joseph Cohen’s quest for an Olympic medal in boxing and his recognition of what is truly golden and “What’s Worth Fighting For”—his family, his Jewish heritage, and their future–all thwarted and threatened by Germany’s rising Nazi regime.

Broadway’s Josh Davis stars as Joe and leads an ensemble of powerful vocalists through more than two dozen beautifully sung numbers, backed by the bittersweet strains of live cello (Dr. Seth Woods), violin (Michele Fox), percussion (John Bollinger), and keyboard (Jesse Lozano, who also serves as the music director, arranger, and conductor). The score is evocative, but the lyrics and rhymes are overly simple, too often lacking the depth of their profound themes.

Along with Davis, other standouts in the cast include Graydon Peter Yosowitz, who plays Joe’s young son Aaron and delivers an impressive performance of “Remembering,” and Emily Kron as Julie, Aaron’s childhood friend and lifelong love, who captures all of her character’s heartfelt emotions. By contrast, a disturbingly upbeat rendition of “Germany’s Changing” by the Nazi soldiers and their commandant, played by Ryan Speakman, is effectively shocking and distasteful, underscoring their remorseless brutality, hatefulness, and inhumanity to man.

Period-style costumes by Izzy Fields recall the fashions of the decades in which the story is set, and Meganne George’s scenic design, with a central boxing ring, easily changes to the shifting locales in Germany, the U.S., and Israel, with a few movable chairs and tables. Dramatic lighting by Joe Beumer accentuates the moods, and spotlights the dates and places inscribed on the set’s backdrop, helping to clarify the sometimes confusing jumps in time and transitions from scene to scene.

Josh Davis, Karis Danish, Jenn Malenke, and Steven Grant Douglas. Photo by Jeremy Daniel Photography.
Josh Davis, Karis Danish, Jenn Malenke, and Steven Grant Douglas. Photo by Jeremy Daniel Photography.

The NYMF provides a valuable platform for the presentation of works-in-progress, nurturing the production and development of new musicals like The Gold.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with a 10-minute intermission.

The Gold plays through Saturday, August 6, 2016 at the New York Musical Festival, performing at The Pearl Theatre – 555 West 42nd Street, in NYC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

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