ABI GEZUNT (As Long As You're Healthy) [Musical/Yiddish Language] B: Jacob Kalich and Sholom Perlmutter; M: Joseph Rumshinsky; LY: Molly Picon; D/P: Jacob Kalich; CH: Lillian Shapero; S/L: Michael Saltzman; T: Second Avenue Theatre (OB); 10/8/49
Molly Picon, doyenne of the Yiddish theatre, celebrated her quarter-century reign by appearing in this hit musical comedy that displayed her multitalented charm. The show was in the Second Avenue sentimental formula tradition, "slow, obvious and stereotyped, with old-fashioned scenery and some fairly hideous costumes," according to Brooks Atkinson ( NYT); it was still very enjoyable as quaint family entertainment. A large percentage of the show's success was owing to the petite star, who played a double role that displayed her versatility. The fifty-one-year-old star even learned to roller skate for one of her routines. While most of the dialogue was in Yiddish, English phrases were scattered throughout.
The setting is a kosher hotel in the Catskill Mountains, the only place where one can enjoy oneself without having a good time, as one character remarks. Tzirele ( Picon), a naive, religiously orthodox displaced person from Poland, marries the half-owner of the hotel ( Muni Serebrov) and learns that he has been carrying on with the flirtatious wife ( Mae Schoenfeld) of the social director ( Julius Adler).The piously orthodox Tzirele's plan to trap him involves her inventing a sexy identical twin from Paris named Mirele, who arrives at the hotel as a French chanteuse and immediately wins the hearts of all the male guests, including her own spouse. The husband eventually realizes the truth and sheepishly returns to the fold. At the show's end, Picon's husband, actor-librettist-director-producerJacob Kalich, appeared before the curtain to recap Picon's long career, made especially piquant by the fact that her American debut had been in the same theatre.
Picon's role gave her numerous chances to win the audience's hearts. One of her best songs was "Mama Loshen," in which she had fun listing various comic Yiddish expressions and insults. Whitney Bolton ( NYMT) declared, "Miss Picon was only wonderful 25 years ago when I first saw her and she is only wonderful now, a fascinating expert comedienne who has her own kind of way on a stage, and an entrancing way it is, too. She is surrounded by an expert company but nothing is ever as good as when she is on stage, joshing the plot, sky-larking, making acid jokes or singing in that way that only Molly Picon can sing."
The cast included Irving Jacobson, Max Bozhyk, Henrietta Jacobson, Sylvia Feder, and Miriam Feder. The Feder sisters, a harmonizing duo, had a show- stopping number in "The Tzimmes Polka."
"ACCORDING TO LAW" (see A Strange Play)
(1) "ACROSS THE BOARD ON TOMORROW MORNING" and "THEATRE OF THE SOUL" [One-Acts] P/T: Theatre Showcase (OB); 3/20/42