Jewish Chronicle 15.03.02

I Can get it For You Wholesale, Arcola Theatre

Riches from rags

Carole Woddis on the revival of a classic Jewish musical

How strange that it takes a Turkish Muslim director to revive one of the few quintessentially Jewish musicals not to have been "rediscovered" in the past 20 years. The 1962 Harold Rome hit, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, propelled Barbra Streisand (as the beleaguered secretary, Miss Marmalstein) to prominence when it first hit the stage 40 years ago.

Since then, it had been neglected until the remarkable Mehmet Ergen brought it to his Arcola Theatre, formerly a derelict clothes factory in London's East End. Now, the one-time factory floor teems once again with finished and unfinished garments, sewing machines and rows of buttons and beads.

Rome's musical, set in the dismal get-rich-quick-and-at-any-price days of the American Depression, and based on the novel by Jerome Weidman, is the tale of thrusting young rag trade entrepreneur, Harry Bogen (Joseph Wicks). He throws caution and principles to the wind to make his pile, goes bankrupt but lives to fight another day. Hugely entertaining, if a touch sentimental, and played with panache, this production shows once again what can be achieved on a shoestring. Somebody should run with this all the way to the West End.

Carole Woddis