Press | Reviews


City Pages
Review by Ed Huyck

December 21, 2011

How long does it take for The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer to capture the audience? A handful of seconds—just enough time for the famed opening clarinet notes from Rhapsody in Blue to be played by Dale Mendenhall. From there, Joseph Vass's creation is a joyful ride into the roots and eventual results of one of America's great composers…There's nothing particularly "holiday" about the production, but you'll leave the theater in a state of pure joy.

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Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Review by Graydon Royce

December 17, 2011

Gershwin has got rhythm…, "The Soul of Gershwin" manages a light yet rich entertainment on the music of the man who -- in a life cut short -- gave us "Rhapsody in Blue," "I Got Rhythm" and "Summertime." Light, for this show relies on singers and instruments to transport the message of George Gershwin's genius. Rich, for the surprises tucked into Joseph Vass' script about how deeply Gershwin was affected by the Jewish music that surrounded him.

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Minnesota Monthly
Review by Ellen Burkhardt

December 2011

All of the musicians in Klezmerica do a phenomenal job...and Levin struts his stuff as Gershwin in an admirable manner…In the world of music, George Gershwin was the ultimate innovator. He truly paved the way for jazz to grow and transform, morphing over time into many of the genres we treasure today. That his background and methodology were so complex only add to this incredible story, and The Soul of Gershwin offers the chance…to further appreciate everything this genius composer did to bring more magic to music.

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Review by Janet Preus

December 14, 2011

... a delightful musical offering: a well-researched and interesting story backed by wonderful music…it’s about the band, and they are simply amazing, stirring up an exuberant mix of traditional Jewish and early 20th century tunes, and Gershwin’s own music, from Tin Pan Alley to the ground-breaking Porgy and Bess. Each instrumentalist is a virtuoso in his own right, but besides playing just a blizzard of notes at a ­­­­­ cracking pace, they also played the right thing at the right time, including sweet melodies exquisitely phrased.

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Toronto Star
Review by Robert Craw

May 4, 2010

If ever a show was all about the music, it’s The Soul of Gershwin, now at the Winter Garden Theatre.

Subtitled “The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer,” the show gives us a perfunctory biographical outline of one of the greatest Jewish American composers — his early start as a song plugger for Tin Pan Alley, his transition to songwriter and then composer of American musicals, opera (Porgy and Bess) and classical music

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South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Review by Bill Hirschman

March 6, 2008

Listen up. You only have until Sunday afternoon to catch the revival of The Soul of Gershwin, arguably the best theatrical revue to play South Florida in years, at Parker Playhouse.

Subtitled The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, this is not a Gershwin concert, although there are impeccably rendered Gershwin tunes. It's not a stuffy resurrection of klezmer tunes, although you'll hear that style played here with rollicking drive and raucous zest.

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Gershwin show is a rousing comeback

The Miami Herald
Christine Dolen

March 6, 2008

The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer was born in Minnesota but has a little history in South Florida. It played Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse in April 2002, and back then audiences and critics agreed that, in the words of a song by George and Ira Gershwin, 'S Wonderful.

Four years later, the show is back, this time at Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse. Much has changed since the exuberant, insightful production visited South Florida the first time.

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South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Jack Zink, Theater Writer

April 9, 2002

Michael Paul Levin portrays George Gershwin with such an easy flair that he seems guided by George's ghost. Indeed, the composer's spirit inhabits the entire Coconut Grove Playhouse stage, where Levin and eight other perfonners are conducting a musical seance called The Soul of Gershwin.

The convocation is in full swing by the time Levin, cigar in hand, describes the tune Noach's Teive, written by Abraham Goldfaden (known as the father of Yiddish theater). Singer Maggie Burton finishes the song's last, plaintive phrases and Prudence Johnson replaces her at the microphone while Levin, as Gershwin, gleefully admits he decided to use the tune himself.

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The Miami Herald
Howard Cohen

April 8, 2002

The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer works on so many levels one might have to see it twice to grasp all the complexities. On its most basic level, Soul of Gershwin functions as a narrated concert. Give it some decent voices - and this show has three mellifluous ones, especially the bell-pure Bruce Henry - add a virtuosic violinist (Yuri Merzhevsky), and that alone would make it worth the price of admission.

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Learn How Tunes Evolved

The Palm Beach Post
Hap Erstein

April 20, 2002

Most musical revues just pay tribute to composers. The Soul of Gershwin: the Musical Journey of an American Klezmer also celebrates thievery. For as actor Michael Paul Levin says, while flicking his cigar in a gesture that owes as much to George Burns as it does to George Gershwin, "Mediocre songwriters borrow, great songwriters steal."

It is with such grand larceny that this thought-provoking little musical entertainment traces the influences that bubbled inside the head of the pioneering music-maker who left an extraordinary legacy of American jazz, Broadway show tunes, classical compositions and folk opera in his all too-brief 39 years. What the show's creator, Joseph Vass, has devised is a tuneful two-hour lecture-concert, in which the roots of Gershwin's inspirations in religious and secular Jewish and black music are charted. As in Hershey Felder's George Gershwin Alone, which recently left West Palm Beach's Cuillo Centre, having the genesis of familiar music pointed out to us ensures that we will now hear it with a fresh, more appreciative ear.

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