Articles written for THE FORWARD by Leonard J. Lehrman

Apr. 12, 2002, p. 20


"The American Dream" opens and closes at New Haven's Shubert Performing Arts Center all in the course of a single night. And this is not the Edward Albee play or the showstopper from "Miss Saigon". This is the U.S. concert premiere of Dirk Brosse and Frank Van Laecke's Flemish musical "[American Dream:] Sacco & Vanzetti", which has since 1996 has enjoyed over 100 performances in Belgium and Holland, as well as a workshop at The Lark Theatre in Manhattan earlier this month.

Adapted by Neil Thomas Proto and director Tony Giordano, and featuring 14 cast members and 17 Orchestra of New England musicians conducted by James Sinclair -- it is the only complete production this year of any work concerning Nicola Sacco and Bar[t]olomeo Vanzetti. The two Italian immigrant anarchists who were executed, despite worldwide protests, 75 years ago this August (for a crime they did not commit), and were exonerated by Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis 25 years ago this July

Excerpts from the Marc Blitzstein work (completed by this writer last year) on the same subject will be heard in Great Neck June 9 and Teaneck N.J. June 23.

[Editor wrote: "Excerpts from another work on the same subject (completed last year by Marc Blitzstein with this writer) will be heard in June in Great Neck and Teaneck, N.J."]*

The New Haven production is a wake-up call, showing a European perspective on U.S. history: America as the land of broken promise[s], where the Ku Klux Klan and Machiavellian prosecutors denigrate "Wops, Niggers, Jews and Japs," and especially "anarchists, socialists, communists -- all the same!"

If the cast's Italian accents sometimes veer toward the Hispanic, and the events of the trials and appeals are a bit telescoped, still there is vitality in the energetic score, stylistically reminiscent of Schönberg (Claude-Michel, not Arnold) and a bit of Nino Rota, and promise in the libretto, still very much a work in progress, deserving of development, so far as the English lyrics are concerned. See it while you can[, remembering the Palmer Raids in the Age of Ashcroft].


Shubert Performing Arts Center, 247 College St., New Haven; April 20, 8 p.m.; $25-$50 (203-624-1825)

photo of BEN SHAHN, 'SACCO AND VANZETTI' (DETAIL) , 1932 caption: MUSICAL TRIBUTE: 'The American Dream' brings to the stage the story of executed immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti.

*A correction appeared the following week, indicating that Leonard Lehrman had done the completion, Blitzstein having died in 1964(!).

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