What a disgrace that the 1962 musical “I Can Get It for You Wholesale,” a critique of vulture capitalism disguised as a rag commerce comedy, is now greatest referred to as the Broadway present that gave Barbra Streisand her begin at 19. Irrespective of how good she was — and the recording of her big number, “Miss Marmelstein,” overflows with stupendous, youthful invention — hers was solely a small, comedian position in a a lot darker story by the novelist Jerome Weidman; her tune a bauble in an interesting and multifaceted rating by Harold Rome.
A conflict of types in all probability contributed to the present’s meh run. In Weidman’s novel, the primary character, a garment trade climber named Harry Bogen, is an impenitent snake, an ethical backside feeder who is aware of no backside. (On his manner up, he breaks a strike, lies to his mom, dupes his friends, two-times his girlfriend and embezzles from his companions.) Regardless of the antiheroes of “Pal Joey” and “Carousel” within the Nineteen Forties — and “How one can Achieve Enterprise With out Actually Making an attempt,” a current hit when “Wholesale” opened — Bogen was apparently deemed too terrible for Broadway, so Weidman softened him. Casting Elliott Gould additional dialed up the twinkle.
The revisal of “Wholesale” that opened on Monday at Basic Stage Firm was meant, partly, to handle the tonal drawback, and who higher to do it than Weidman’s son John, himself a tremendous musical librettist. (Two nice Sondheim exhibits are amongst his credit: “Pacific Overtures” and “Assassins.”) He has restored among the novel’s first-person narration, in order that Harry (Santino Fontana) will get to work his appeal immediately on the viewers. (Fontana being a charmer, he virtually succeeds.) Weidman has lower a tune, moved two, added three from Rome’s archive and trimmed a number of others. He’s excised any trace of redemption on the finish.
That the present, directed by Journey Cullman, nonetheless doesn’t maintain collectively is unlucky. Its bones are too large for the 196-seat Basic Stage area, which makes the story really feel as if it have been stuffed right into a gown a number of sizes too small. Likewise, the music is simply too complicated for six gamers weirdly doubling. The violinist naturally sufficient performs viola, but additionally percussion, sometimes on the similar time.
This doesn’t matter when the present’s greatest singers are given its greatest songs: Judy Kuhn, as Harry’s Yiddishe momme, affords an beautiful “Too Quickly”; Rebecca Naomi Jones, as his long-suffering girlfriend, a touching “Who Is aware of?”; and Pleasure Woods, because the gold digger he trades as much as, a cynical duet referred to as “What’s in It for Me?” (with Greg Hildreth as a salesman). And Julia Lester’s clarion honk in “Miss Marmelstein” recollects Streisand with out being a duplicate. Nonetheless, the shortage of orchestral texture makes the songs, dotting the extremely episodic ebook, really feel like one-offs, not a rating.
They have been all the time, admittedly, a disparate bunch, just like the this-and-that numbers Rome wrote for his first Broadway outing, the 1936 revue “Pins and Needles.” (Produced by the garment employees’ union, it too was about inequities within the rag commerce.) “Wholesale” is extra bold, as you possibly can hear on the unique solid album, with its electrifying orchestrations by Sid Ramin. In that format, Rome’s liberal mixing of smoky jazz with klezmer-like melodies virtually coheres, bongos and blue notes banging up towards shtetl cantillations. And it’s laborious to withstand vivid Yiddish-inflected rhymes like “riches” and “shvitzes.”
However in making an attempt to realize a stability amongst its varied types, the musical’s ebook by no means solved the issue of being too many issues directly: a romance with a heel for a hero, a lovingly Jewish present a few Jew behaving badly, a Broadway comedy with a downer of a message. Close to the tip, “What Are They Doing to Us Now?” — an offended chorale within the Marc Blitzstein method — affords this recommendation for future generations: “Don’t get born.”
This revisal doesn’t resolve these issues, and makes others worse. Harry’s new narration, although good, exacerbates the stylistic mishmash. At occasions, the schmaltz is so thick that we appear to be within the Anatevka of “Fiddler on the Roof,” not New York Metropolis 30 years later. (Ellenore Scott’s choreography, together with an impenetrable prologue ballet, comes off as watered-down Jerome Robbins.) Cullman’s staging, on a minimal tables-and-chairs set by Mark Wendland, darkly lit by Adam Honoré, is usually laborious to observe, and impoverished if you most need opulence. The climactic trend present on the finish of Act I takes place offstage.
To be honest, the revisal additionally makes some enhancements. The songs pulled from the Rome archive are wonderful, particularly a pair of contrapuntal solos (neatly stitched collectively by the arranger, David Chase) through which the girlfriend, Ruthie, and the gold digger, Martha, resolve tips on how to deal with Harry’s hole guarantees. Ruthie will transfer on, now understanding that “Love Is Not Sufficient”; Martha will maintain him laying golden eggs and “Seize Them Whereas I Can.”
That’s just about the dichotomy of “Wholesale,” runny then hard-boiled. It’s laborious to know tips on how to crack it.
I Can Get It for You Wholesale
By Dec. 17 at Basic Stage Firm, Manhattan; classicstage.org. Working time: 2 hours half-hour.