nytheatre.com review by Lauren Marks
February 18, 2006
Baron Rabinovitsj, currently at the New Victory Theater, is billed in its press release as “the very best music in the funniest way you can imagine.” And indeed, those who go to see this silly symphony can expect both music and humor. It is presented by Het Filiaal, a company from the Netherlands that specializes in creating musical works for young audiences. It must indeed be noted though that Baron Rabinovitsj is specifically directed with a child audience in mind, and may not entirely satisfy the palette for either musical performance or comedy that an adult audience might expect.
The concept of Baron Rabinovitsj is thrilling as an idea. A seemingly ordinary orchestra sets about to play a selection of music, which becomes interrupted by unfortunate “mistakes,” but eventually degenerates into a collection of clowns, a circus symphony free-for-all. However, the piece never really achieves its potential. The characters are underdeveloped, as is the story, making it difficult to engage with the piece, except in a basic moment-to-moment sense. It never builds much momentum either, and doesn’t really succeed as a comic gad peppered with music, or as a musical event peppered with comedy. However, it tends to be a bit more of the latter.
It seemed as if many audience members had the right idea regarding the ideal use for this type of show, using it as a vehicle to introduce children to classical instruments and music. Mothers and fathers, and the occasional grandparent, sat beside their children, pointing out instruments and encouraging the children’s excitement for the music and the gags. To Baron R.’s credit, children did seem to be giggling and not too many cried or asked to be taken home, an impressive feat for an evening that is mainly a musical event.
Much more could have been achieved with this well-conceived piece to make it more likeable and enjoyable for adults, and probably for children as well. However, it is both lighthearted and short, and is more than a worthwhile indoor activity to take a child (with even a passing interest in music) to during these especially chilly winter weeks.