Support Your Local Musical Theatre

The first musical I ever saw was עוץ לי גוץ לי (pronounced Utz Li Gutz Li). I was five years old. I liked it so much that I asked to see it again. My parents bought the record, and they copied it onto reel to reel, and I listened to the songs over and over again throughout my childhood, no matter where we lived.

The book and lyrics to Utz Li Gutzli were written by אברהם שלונסקי (Avraham Shlonsky), and the music was composed by Dubi Zeltzer. The play is based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm called Rumplestiltskin, but it's really nothing like the scary children's story, except in the bare bones plot. Instead, it is a satire and a social commentary. And the intended audience? Children and their parents.

Shlonsky was warned that it would be a flop. They tried to convince him to simplify the language, so that children "would be able to understand it." He used the very highest kind of Hebrew, the kind you find in the old testament, and he used it to poke fun at politicians. How could children possibly understand what a deficit is or that trying to balance the budget by printing more money might be a questionable practice? Who would even want to see such a play? The lyrics were not just peppered with archaic words, they were grammatically challenging. Who even uses the dual anymore? And does it really seem like a good idea to make fun of local place names, substituting "House of Womb" for "House of Bread" (Bethlehem)?

Shlonsky insisted on the original text. And the play was a great success. I was there. I was five years old. And from that day forward I was hooked on musical theater.

The Advice Song

Utzli Gutzli is derived from Rumplestiltskin

The first musical I saw was an original Hebrew language play by Shlonsky based on the Grimm story "Rumplestiltskin:
The first musical I saw was an original Hebrew language play by Shlonsky based on the Grimm story "Rumplestiltskin:

My Fair Lady

The next musical that made a really big impression on me was My Fair Lady. The play was by George Bernard Shaw. The lyricist was Alan Jay Lerner. The composer was Frederick Loewe. I was ten years old. The location was Ann Arbor, Michigan. My music teacher in the local school took the whole class to see the dress rehearsal for free.

For a fictionalized account of that event, you might want to read my short story The Punky-Wunkies.

Again, this play was not really written for children. It deals with complex social issues. It speaks of the idle poor, the idle rich and middle class morality. It has lyrics like "A man was made to help support his children, which is the right and proper thing to do, but with a little bit of luck, with a little bit of luck, with a little bit of luck, they'll go out and start supporting you."

With A Little Bit of Luck

I own the book by Shlonsky (אברהם שלונסקי)

The cover to the book by Shlonsky
The cover to the book by Shlonsky

Living Without Theatre

It seemed that my early years were spent in an atmosphere rich in culture, where important works were readily accessible, and where going to the theatre was a very normal and natural part of life. Nobody I knew thought children were too simple minded to understand satire or to care about social issues. And it did not require a superhuman effort to get to the theatre. It either didn't cost much or it didn't cost anything. It was no big deal.

And then we moved to Grand Prairie, Texas, and all that came to a grinding halt.

I don't really know why it happened. It's not because of the location. We were in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. There was theater in Dallas. There was theater in Ft. Worth. We could have gone. But for some reason we didn't.

I remember distinctly that my mother said she might take me to see Yul Brynner in The King and I, but then when it turned out that it would require us to drive to Dallas, she changed her mind. Something happened to us. We just stopped going.

Current Day Production of Utz li Gutz li

It is in production in the Cameri Theatre.
It is in production in the Cameri Theatre.

The Cameri

The Cameri Theatre
The Cameri Theatre

The Dream of Broadway

For years now, I've had this dream of taking my daughter to see a Broadway play. When I got confined to the pens, I even thought of sending my daughter to visit a friend who lives in New York  so that they could attend a Broadway play together. Then my friend told me that she has not  seen a Broadway play herself in years, since the tickets are way too expensive.

Do you have to be rich to enjoy theater? Since when? And if that is the case, is it any wonder that the arts are languishing?

But there's also another issue. There's the content.

Modern versus Ancient

Among the literati, there are a lot of left-wingers. This doesn't just affect their politics. It seems to affect their language, too. The idea that children could not understand archaic Hebrew -- one suggested to Shlonsky, but rejected by him -- is closely related to the idea that the "masses" can't understand anything, and you have to dumb things down for them.

As a result, much of modern theater isn't really like Utz Li Gutz Li or My Fair Lady, and it's not worth the inflated prices they are charging for it. Rather than making modern drama accessible to the masses, they have succeeded in making it inaccessible to anyone.

If they made it something that everybody might like to see, they could probably afford to lower the price of the tickets.

Support Your Local Theater

Forget about New York! Or Tel Aviv! Or London. Or Paris. Wherever it is you live, there is a local theater within driving distance. Why not go there? That's what I've decided to do. Tonight, I am taking my daughter to Springfield, Missouri to see the opening night production of Treasure Island, a musical. The cost of the tickets? Twenty dollars.

We have a choice. We don't have to buy into expensive and pointless drama written by and for the intellectual elite, who for some incomprehensible reason live in large, crime infested cities with a high tax rate and vote against everything we believe in. We could go local. And instead of letting them think for us, we could be trend setters.

So wish me luck tonight as I try to find the Landers Theater for the first time!

Treasure Island

(c) 2010 Aya Katz

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Comments 11 comments

nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana


I don't think it is fair to blame the decline of theatre on the preeminence of the left.

Bernard Shaw and Shlonsky were both leftists, the former a utopian socialist and the latter a member of the marxist wing of the Israeli labor party. You could say that the problem is that the left's standards have been dropping.

This is a phenomenon not confined to the left. How do Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin compare to Ayn Rand and Barry Goldwater? If this is a false comparison, what prominent figure on the right do you see as comparable to Ayn Rand or to Barry Goldwater?

I think the real problem is a change in the way intellectuals see their role. Shlonsky was a leftist, but at least, he was a pioneer.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nets, you may be right. I knew that calling the current intellectuals "left-wing" was problematic, but I just didn't know what other term to use, since that's how they identify themselves, and they are clearly nothing like George Bernard Shaw, not just in their writing, but in their politics, too.

The far right of today aren't anything like Rand or Goldwater, but then, didn't Ayn Rand say that she wasn't a conservative? Wasn't Goldwater a different breed of politician? In what way was he right wing?

Utopian socialist, huh? I've heard that about Shaw. But... isn't he the guy who proposed to solve the poverty problem by putting to death all the poor? Is that utopian? For that matter, is it socialist?

Doesn't make me like his play any the less, but I tend to think of him as an eccentric free thinker. I doubt seriously if he were alive today if any current day leftist would want anything to do with Shaw.

As for Schlonsky, aren't there parts of his play that seem to hint at the idea that a balanced budget is a good thing and that excessive government expenditure is a problem that rulers and commoners alike are responsible for?

nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana


Is supporting a balanced budget inconsistent with being a leftist? Can't you be for a budget that is balanced but big?

The most striking parts of Shlonsky's book for me are the ones that mock concern with national security.

Pri frbi qi ge nhfz

Lzbe eecne sl ofz.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nets, I have yet to meet a leftist who supports a balanced budget in the sense of not inflating the currency. But then, maybe I haven't met enough leftists. Anyway, Schlonsky made the king's spending seem frivolous, including the money he wanted to send to the poor woman who had triplets, but he seemed to think that spinning gold out of straw to solve the problem was also somehow wrong.

As for the injunction to be fruitful and multiply for the sake of the army, I'm afraid that one went right over my head. I took it literally. But then, I was just five...

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Mixim mixim fofd mixim, fla hxim ol ekixim.

Sounds like a tax protest.

ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 6 years ago from USA

Aya, thank you so much for this hub. I totally enjoyed The Advice Song. Though I am on the level of a child with Hebrew (10 years in Israel gave me a nice Hebrew, but now 10 years of not using it ...), but I understood and enjoyed every word of it! "Zanavotaim"- loved it! Was it young Zeev Revach singing?

You are so right about the high level of understanding children are able to possess. My mother took me to see a ballet for the first time when I was 8. I loved it so much!

My son manages to attend some of the performances in Milwaukee (and they have great theaters there!) only thanks to his student ID ($10 student rush), otherwise we won't be able to afford it.

Our local community theater is very good (I volunteer there as a stage crew when I can) and they perform on a very high level!

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

You were lucky, Aya, to have been exposed to theater as a very young child. That love of the theatrical, whether professional or amateur, will sustain you forever. Thanks for this fascinating read.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Reuvera, thanks. Glad you enjoyed "The Advice Song". Yes, it was Ze'ev Revach and Yosi Gerber performing it. It's great that you are able to be involved in your local community theater. I wish we could, too, but it was a two hour drive to the theater.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dr. BJ, thanks! It's odd, but I never really focused on this love of the theatrical before. I just took it for granted.

anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago

I agree--we can just support our local theaters instead of forking out costly sum. Another reason for supporting them?--they're in dire need of funds. Thanks for sharing.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Anglnwu, thanks. I agree. The same money applied locally could make so much more of a difference.

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