The musical, written by the graphic novelist Ben Katchor and composer Mark Mulcahy, is a “multi-media ‘chamber rock opera’ about the pleasures and perils of bibliomania,” according to press notes. Katchor created the projections and wrote the text and directed, while Mulcahy wrote the music and played one of the lead roles of Abe Rosenbach.
The musical chronicles the life of the brothers Abe and Philip Rosenbach, who were the famed dealers of rare books and antique artifacts. The piece was commissioned by the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, a research center that holds the brothers’ personal collections of rare books and manuscripts. The brothers’ collection ranges from James Joyce’s Ulysses to John Tenniel’s original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.
Some of the flavor of the production may be gleaned from two excerpts from a review by Seth Rogovoy:
There was a moment in the second act of The Rosenbach Company, probably about halfway through, when the clouds parted, the sky opened up, and it suddenly became crystal clear that this story ostensibly about two businessmen brothers in the early twentieth century in Philadelphia was about a lot more than the brothers: it was really a paean to the love of books – their look, smell, feel, even their taste. And more: the sense of love that books can inspire, the sense of the need for possession of a cherished object. But not just any object – books alone can truly inspire the sort of obsession that this show talked about, as bibliomania, because they combine an irrational obsession with something totally rational – a book , the printed words of an author, bound on pages between cloth covers. . . . Call it what you will – performance art, musical theater, avant-pop musical, or rock opera – The Rosenbach Company, which unfortunately will not be repeated, was undoubtedly one of the surprise hits of the summer season, transporting the small audience on hand to see it to another world full of laughter and genuine sentiment.To read the rest of this excellent review please visit this site.
So its limited run very well means that we will all probably have to rely on a movie version eventually being produced. Any thoughts as to who would play the Rosenbach brothers, the more serious-minded, scholarly Abe Rosenbach and his more business-oriented, “dandyish” brother Philip? How about Mandy Patinkin for Abe and Elliot Gould for Philip?
(From Richard Hopkins)