“IT'S LIKE A MOVIE,” sings Rachel, a screen-struck character in Theda Bara and the Frontier Rabbi. And she's absolutely right. This musical, receiving its world premiere at the Cohoes Music Hall, boasts an improbable plot, unbelievable sets, wildly uncharacteristic songs and a gratuitous helping of beautiful women offering generous views of their bosoms.
I'm going to see it again as soon as I can.
The creators, composer Bob Johnston and writer Jeff Hochhauser, call their show a “shameless musical,” and shameless it is in exploiting every entertainment style that's ever been overmagnified on the silver screen.
Set in 1917 at the height of Theda Bara's stardom, it opens with the glamorous vamp at her most austere and inaccessible, just as publicist Selwyn Farp (Raymond Wood) designed her. The gorgeous Theda, played in varying states of dress by pretty Liz Larsen, is regarded as such an evil influence that no self-respecting person would be caught watching her films.
That's the problem a young rabbi goes up against when a member of his temple catches him at the movies. Isaac Birnbaum is so flustered that he explains his purpose as information-gathering: he's going to deliver a sermon against the vile woman.