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A CurtainUp Review
Lies My Father Told Me

It's manure, Mrs. Tanner. Manure. Nothing can grow without it. It's the stuff of life.— Zaida
Chuck Karel
Alex Dreier as Young David and Chuck Karel as Zaida in Lies My Father Told Me
This season we've seen a spate of memory plays. First came the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie; then came the Public's Fun Home, both very well received. And now comes National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene's premiere of Lies My Father Told Me, a new musical based on the 1975 Academy Award-nominated film adapted from the works of Ted Allan, with music and lyrics by Elan Kunin, and directed by Bryna Wasserman.

This coming-of-age musical takes place during the 1920s and follows three generations of a Montreal Jewish immigrant family: Zaida (Chuck Karel), Harry (Jonathan Raviv) and his wife Annie (Russell Arden Koplin) and their son, David (the younger played by Alex Dreier, the older by Joe Paparella). Older David tells the story much as Tom tells his story in The Glass Menagerie.

However, in many way Lies My Father Told Me is more like another Broadway show, the musical Big Fish, which will close on December. 29th. Like the young hero of Big Fish, David finds out that much of what his father tells him is not true. Only the lies David's father tells him are not so benevolent. Even worse, David finds out that some of those lies are actually true.

If David's father is sometimes cruel, especially when he ridicules Zaida, David finds in his grandfather both a mentor and an ally. While Harry keeps devising schemes to make money, ignoring his wife and child, Zaida has a religious and tolerant view of the world. He loves taking his grandson on jaunts around the city aboard his horse-drawn cart as he makes his rounds gathering junk.

There are several other colorful characters in Lies My Father Told Me: Mrs. Tanner (Renée Bang Allen), a neighbor who constantly complains about Zaida's horse, Ferdeleh; Edna (Leisa Mather), the town's lovable prostitute; and Mr. Baumgarten (Gordon Stanley), who always spouts Marxist philosophy. Kunin gives the talented cast great songs. Koplin has the poignant "Maybe Someday." Karel has the sweet "Zaida's Lullaby." Two funny numbers, "Politics" and "I'm Not Leaving" are given to Stanley and Mather respectively.

But the real stars of this show are Karel, who is the wise and loving Zaida all young people (Jewish or not) should have and the very talented young Dreier. The chemistry between the two is entirely believable.

John C. Dinning's set, aided by a turntable, lets the audience to see the Montreal street, Zaida's stable and various rooms in David's home. This allows the audience to understand both the public and private lives of the various characters.

Lies My Father Told Me is a gentle musical with something of a rambling plot line. But thanks to the lively musical numbers and memorable characters, it remains interesting and entertaining throughout.

Lies My Father Told Me
Adapted and Directed by Bryna Wasserman
Music, Lyrics & Orchestrations by Elan Kunin
Musical Direction by Zalmen Moltek
Cast: Renee Bang Allen (Mrs. Tanner), Ashley Brooke (Cleo), Jeremiah Burch (Danny), Alex Dreier (Young David), Jonathan Hadley (Benny), Chuck Karel (Zaida), Russell Arden Koplin (Annie), Leisa Mather (Edna), Joe Paparella (Older David), Jonathan Raviv (Harry), Gordon Stanley (Mr. Baumgarten/Proprietor), Eva Amesse, Chris Karl, Tina Mancini, Max Nussbaum, David Rosenberg, Siria Rutstein (ensemble)
Set Design: John C. Dinning
Costume Design Izzy Fields
Sound Design: Benjamin Furiga
Choreography: Merete Muenter
National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene at Baruch Performing Arts Center, Nagelberg Theater 55 Lexington Avenue (646) 312-5073 or
From 11/10/13; opening 11/21/13; closing 12/16/13
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays 6:00pm Matinees are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 2:00pm. There are no performances Mondays, Tuesdays or Fridays
Tickets: $50-$60
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 23, 2013
Musical Numbers
Act One
    Rags, Clothes, Bottles/Older David, Full Company
    This Won't Be Like the Last Time/Annie, Harry
    Magic Wings/Zaida, Younger David, Older David
    When Messiah Comes/Zaida
    Politics/Mr. Baumgarten, Zaida, Mrs. Tanner, Edna, Ensemble
    Uptown/Harry, Benny, Annie
    What's With the Knees/Harry
    Zaida's Lullaby/Zaida, Older David
    Fishin'/Proprietor, Harry, Male Ensemble
Act Two
    I'm Not Leaving/Edna
    Bankrupt/Younger David, Danny, Cleo, Ensemble
    Blessed/ZZaida, Full Company
    You're Going To Pay/Mrs.Tanner
    Maybe Someday/Annie
    Ferdeleh/Younger David, Older David
    Lies/Older David/Full Company
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