VEN (NEW YORK) — After one of the most tumultuous opening nights in the history of tumultuous opening nights on Broadway, Josh Lubenstein’s When Irish Eyes Are Smeyling, closes after the first act!
VEN‘s Senior Great White Way Correspondent Addison DeWitt sat down with Mr Lubenstein on Friday to discuss the now raging controversy surrounding the musical.
Addison DeWitt — That was a quite a fiasco. In fact, there’s never been anything like it. At least not in my lifetime.
Josh Lubenstein — Yeah, you can say that again!
AD — What exactly were you thinking when you mounted this? I mean the audience became so incensed towards the end of the first act, that they attacked the performers, demolished the set, and later the theater was firebombed!
JL — Yeah. It was pretty bad. Which was a huge disappointment to us, because we thought we’d worked out all the kinks in Steubenville.
AD — Could you give our readers a quick overview of the musical, so they have an understanding of what we’re talking about?
JL — Sure. The production was paying a sort of homage to The Producers, and …
AD — You’re kidding!
JL — No, I’m actually quite serious. We saw it as The Producers meets Fiddler on the Roof meets The Quiet Man meets The Wizard of OZ. But in a fun way. Don’t you think that’s just crazy funny?
AD — In a word, no. And neither, apparently, did the audience. But please, continue.
JL — The story takes place in Tel Aviv. A young, pretty girl Lucinda Levine who is just getting back from her first time on a kibbutz, walks past some workmen hoisting a monument in place and she asks them what they’re doing. They tell her that they’re building another Famine Memorial to commemorate the Irish Potato Famine, which leads to the first musical number, I’d Rather Be Fled Than Dead a kind of Bob Fosse choreographed high energy dance ensemble with the cast throwing potatoes at each other while the chorus makes knishes out of the potatoes, very upbeat and very sexy.
AD — (Shaking his head).
JL — Tevi McNamara — one of the workman — tells Lucinda that many of the Irish emigrated to Palestine when the potato crop failed in 1845, and that they still have a presence in Israel to this day. This leads to the second number from which the production takes its name When Irish Eyes Are Smeyling! set to what we like to think of as rollicking Celtic-Klezmer rhythms.
AD — Dear God!
JL — It did very well in Scranton.
AD — And on Broadway?
JL — Not as well as Youngstown, unfortunately.
AD — And what happens next?
JL — Well, the girl Lucinda, she starts to notice an Irish presence everywhere — the Irish own the banks, the media, the entertainment industry, they are prominent in education, in the court system, in politics — in fact the Prime Minister has 20 Irishmen in his cabinet — and yet the Irish only make up 1% of the population of Israel.
Suddenly the stage goes black, she’s lit with a baby spot, head down, and begins to sing the lilting almost haunting ballad The Irish Own The World.
AD — Is this when the audience rushed the stage?
JL — Well, there was a lot of booing, and they started to throw things. But the melee actually broke out during the next big dance number, a homage to I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair from South Pacific right down to the Chris Hocking choreography, entitled So Why Are We Giving Ireland 3 Billion Euros a Year, Every Year, When The Last Time I Looked, There’s Still No Kaddish for Weinstein? It was a very punchy number, very high energy, where we combined the hora with ceili step dancing, a kind of whirlwind pastiche, which unfortunately the cast was unable to finish.
AD — That’s putting it mildly. The audience destroyed the set, then went outside and set fire to your car!
JL — Yeah. My own girlfriend tried to throw acid at me! But to be fair, that’s happened before.
AD — So where do you go from here?
JL — Well, once we’re done with the lawsuits, and I get resettled (I was asked to leave my Brooklyn co-op), I’ll head up to the Catskills and work on a rewrite.
AD — You’re going to do this again?!
JL — Well, we never got to the ending, which was one big extravagant grand reveal that places everything that went before in a new perspective.
AD — (rolling his eyes) I can only imagine.
JL — That’s when we have Lucinda wake up — turns out she’d been dreaming the whole thing, like Dorothy — and when she realizes it was just a dream she sings Someday My Blince Will Come, a homage . . .
AD — To The Music Man, yeah, I get it (shakes his head)
JL — A little kitchy, I know, but it works!
AD — In Steubenville.
JL — Anyway, in a further twist it’s revealed that Lucinda’s the niece of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — an Israeli with an Irish name!!! So then there’s this big finale with everyone on stage singing a reprise of When Irish Eyes Are Smeyling — think of White Christmas, only this time with leprechauns dancing a jig with the golem — big smiles, lots of legs, and this incredibly boffo Flo Ziegfeld happy ending extravaganza at which point the cast runs off the stage through the audience handing out little samplings of corn beef and cabbage or pastrami on rye!
AD — Why don’t you just have the cast run around apologizing profusely and then destroy the set themselves so the audience doesn’t have to?
JL — Wow! That is a GREAT note, Addison! Sort of a silent allusion to The Who‘s Quadrophenia while breaking down the fourth wall! That’s a fantastic idea! I don’t think that’s ever been done before! I’ll see if I can work that in!