Is there room for a klezmer musical on Broadway? I think so. The band for “Shlemiel the First,” led by the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theatre’s Zalmen Mlotek, is so good that during the exit music a sizeable portion of the audience drifted down toward the pit instead of up to the exits. Costumed as an Old Country klezmer band, they even march onstage sometimes, but it’s at intermission and afterward that they really wail. And that is terrific stuff, particularly Dmitri “Zisl” Slepovitch’s clarinet, Yaeko Miranda Elmaleh’s violin and Mlotek’s keyboard. Hoo boy, good.
When the show travels — and it should, if tweaked a bit — the creators should put in more places for the band to strut their stuff. The show by Robert Brustein, with lyrics by Arnold Weinsten and music by Hankus Netsky, is intact from the version we reviewed in Montclair in 2010 (read that review here, and our interview with Brustein and Mlotek, which highlights the Yiddish theater sources, here).