Theda Bara and the Frontier Rabbi
THE STORY: Back in the days before Madonna, Marilyn and even Jean Harlow, there was Theda Bara! She was the Vamp. In the year 1917, if a newly ordained rabbi named Isaac Birnbaum were to be spotted by a member of his congregation watching this creature drive a priest to bottle and suicide in a steamy silent film called Father, I Have Sinned!, he’d have to think fast to come up with an explanation. Truth to tell, the rabbi finds Theda Bara far more exotic than his old favorite, Tom Mix. But if he were to tell the truth, chances are he would be assigned to assessing the probity of pickles in a Brooklyn factory rather than realizing his vision of remaining in Hollywood as the Frontier Rabbi. Theda Bara has problems too. Instead of being an enigmatic import from Egypt who can speak no English and must communicate through her conniving producer Selwyn Farp, she is, in fact, none other than Theodosia Goodman, a nice Jewish girl from Cincinnati. And what is her dream? Not to drive men gaga by mouthing, “Kiss me, my fool,” but to put on a pretty dress and pearls, go to synagogue and meet a nice rabbi. While Isaac’s sister is fixing to make the introduction, Isaac is readying a sermon of denunciation, and Theda is preparing to pick grapes from her heaving bosom in a new movie of Cleopatra. As for Selwyn Farp, he is plotting to install the wavering rabbi as the puppet head of the movie industry’s watchdog, the National Board of Review.
“…[a] lively little charmer of a musical comedy…This is the past with a presence.” —NY Times. “…[a] thoroughly delightful new musical…” —NY Newsday.