“Moses Man” is the story of a Jewish couple’s nine-year journey through Europe during World War II.
Currently running at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Moses Man chronicles the true story of Avi (Oliver Thornton) and Lia (Tess DeFlyer) as they flee Nazi-occupied Austria and embark on a nine-year journey through Italy, Cyprus, Palestine, Africa, and finally finding sanctuary in America. The story is told through the perspective of survivor Opa (Kevin McGuire) as he shares his story with his grandson Moshe (Evan Daves) at the opening of Moshe’s exhibition showcasing Opa’s survival during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, Moses Man does not do this incredible story justice. There’s a disconnect between the story itself, the action occurring on stage, and the audience. The passion and fear is missing.
Opa and Moshe remain on stage for most of the show, watching their history unfold in front of them, but their story doesn’t evolve and the show ends without any closure on their aspect of the story. Avi and Lia’s story, however, seems almost too convenient to be true. When traveling from country to country, they’re refused entry every time, but the officers let them through after very little convincing. These easily passable checkpoints quickly become predictable to both the audience and the actors, eradicating any sense of tension or suspense that they may have hoped to create. This tension and an inherent sense of stakes are what’s missing from the cast overall. The performances seem too casual and therefore impersonal and surface level. Silences are glazed over and moments don’t completely land. The audience doesn’t feel that they could be discovered or killed at any moment.
Moses Man has the potential to be a solid musical. At it’s core is a remarkable story of survival, memory, guilt, and preservation. It’s not quite there yet, but with edits and fine tuning, it will be. Several songs are repetitive and don’t drive the plot forward, but the chorus numbers are very strong with gorgeous harmonies and I wish there had been more. Moses Man, like its protagonists, is still on its journey.
The trailer can be found here.