May 8, 2006    Members Login  New Users Register  E-mail alerts  Home Delivery  Contact Newsday
<A TARGET="_top" HREF=",810,1597,1870,2096,2169,3379,3763,4294,4375,4538,5088,6207,52529,52641,53367,54131,54254,54255,55883,55940,56384,57084,57323,57331&Targets=59930,60510,50790,58299,58935,58264,1284,54117,54193,58776,2810,56000,56069,55334,60420&Values=30,46,50,61,73,81,91,100,110,137,150,289,328,339,389,395,442,533,591,834,835,903,1016,1051,1065,1066,1089,1091,1093,1105,1112,1136,1191,1212,1263,1272,1282,1309,1604,1606,1617,1646,1648,1653,1654,1656,1664,1681,1733,1745,1754,1758,1786,1787,1788,1835,1836,1837,1839,1863,1870,1871,1882,1887,1890,1892,1939,1946,1949,1956,1977,1987,2011,2035,2036,2044,2061,2106,2174,2191,2274,2281,2283,2297,2353,2366,2377,2380,2482,2548,2718,2765,2782,2804,2805,2806,2837,2838,2861,2863,2915,2938,2948,2972,2975,3005,3023,3024,3047,3051,3055,3058,3061,3067,3070,3086,3103,3113,3117,3153,3215,3217,3238,3242,3257,3277,3286,3333,3433,3437,3442,3445,3467,3469,3508,3561,3576&RawValues=USERAGENTID%2CMozilla/5.0%2520(Macintosh%253B%2520U%253B%2520PPC%2520Mac%2520OS%2520X%2520Mach-O%253B%2520en-US%253B%2520rv:"> <IMG SRC="" WIDTH=120 HEIGHT=60 BORDER=0></A> - Part 2 / Features Print Edition
Today Tuesday Wednesday
Mostly Cloudy 62ƒ
Mostly Cloudy
Chance of Rain 62ƒ/45ƒ
Chance of Rain
Chance of Rain 59ƒ/46ƒ
Chance of Rain
Site Search Entertainment Homepage News Sports Business ShopLocal Jobs Cars Homes Place an ad am New York - Long Island/Nassau County and Suffolk County
Start now and get a $100 gift card and premium web access!
New York News from
Children's operetta hides a terrible history

Buy Tickets

Special to Newsday

May 8, 2006

If context were everything, we might have trouble enjoying Hans Krˇsa's lovely children's operetta "Brundibar." For while it's not quite in the class of some of the greats of the genre - Ravel's "L'enfant et les sortileges," Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" - "Brundibar" is light, flavorful fun, particularly as seen in a new Off-Broadway production, with an adaptation by Tony Kushner and design by Maurice Sendak.

Discoloring our delight is the piece's painful history. Written in Prague in 1938, "Brundibar" had most of its performances at the Czech concentration camp TerezĚn (Theresienstadt) in the 1940s, where Krˇsa was held until his deportation to Auschwitz, where he died. The original performers were prisoners, as were the audiences, except in one infamous instance: When the Red Cross came to inspect TerezĚn in 1944, the Nazis hastily "beautified" the overcrowded camp to resemble a happy Jewish ghetto. Among the key propaganda exhibits for these clueless observers was "Brundibar."

What are we to make of this new version, a sunny storybook with songs? An affirmation of the indomitable creative spirit? A minor gem retrieved from the ruins of Jewish Europe? It may be hard to sort out our adult feelings about "Brundibar," but kids should have no qualms in relishing the elemental story, the charming score or the invitingly folksy design.

For parents who would use the show as a way to talk to youngsters about the Holocaust, there is Kushner's helpful curtain-raiser, "But the Giraffe," in which a young girl (Danielle Freid) packs for her family's evacuation to TerČzin.

Kushner masterfully, if somewhat repetitively, introduces the operetta's fraught historical backdrop from the innocent point of view of a child for whom leaving home seems merely an annoyance, while the adults around her work to hide their terror. She has one retort worthy of Bart Simpson: To the vague parental instruction "behave," the little girl replies, "I am behaving. I am behaving selfishly."

"Brundibar," on the other hand, has a resolutely fairy-tale setting, with Sendak's pop-up shtetl glancing artfully in Chagall's direction. The impoverished near-orphans PepĚcek (Aaron Simon Gross) and Aninka (Devynn Pedell) come to town with "sorrow in every step," though with their sweet voices and colorful peasant garb (costumes by Robin I. Shane), they look more as if they had stepped out of an optimistic social realist poster.

When the two try busking for change, the town's evil organ-grinder, Brundibar (Euan Morton), menaces them with a mincing comic-villain number that evokes Danny Kaye as Captain Hook. To their rescue come an unlikely trio: a cat (Angelina RČaux), a dog (Geoff Hoyle) and a bird (Anjali Bhimani), who drum up a "singing army" to vanquish the town-square tyrant. The chorus' closing platitudes, set to a galumphing march, are bittersweet, given their original context: "When a bully's near/ Tell him you're not afraid/ You'll see him fade away." Tyranny has proven remarkably resilient, of course, but so, thank God, has "Brundibar."

BRUNDIBAR. English adaptation by Tony Kushner, after Adolf Hoffmeister's original libretto. Music by Hans Krˇsa. With "But the Giraffe," written by Kushner. Directed by Tony Taccone. Through May 21 at New Victory Theatre, 209 42nd St., Manhattan. Tickets $10-$30. Call 212-239-6200. Seen Thursday.

Most emailed

Best Bets
Search by event type

Search by name (optional)

Local Search
Restaurants | Caterers | Travel
Legal | Wedding Service | Home & Garden | Health & Wellness
Enter a Category View List
Featured Advertisers
Denise Flaim
News on the go
Get the latest headlines on your cell phone at

Find It Fast

Get the latest headlines on your wireless device at
By visiting this site, you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
Partners: Shopping: I Careerbuilder for jobs I for Autos I for rentals I for Homes