May 23, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Theatre Review: Einstein, the Musical: The Smartest Man in the World

Editor-at-Large

When is the last time you saw a real schmaltzy, Broadway-type musical at your local Equity-waiver theatre?  And, how in the world could the story revolve around the genius of TIME magazine’s 1999 Man of the Century, inventor of the legendary E=mc2?

Well, you’re in for a treat, as thanks to the book by Russ Alben and John Sparks, lyrics by Russ Alben, music by Jerry Hart and music director and arranger Gerald Sternbach, The Smartest Man in the World, presented by the West Coast Jewish Theatre, is a delightful musical journey through the personal trials and tribulations of Albert Einstein’s rather complicated love life. 

With minimal production values, from the sparce set to lighting design, the show succeeds because of an outstanding cast with uniformly excellent legit voices.  The songs range from tender love songs to rousing ensemble pieces such as the opening number, “The Smartest Man in the World,” to the amusing “You Can’t Be a Little Jewish.”

We all know about Einstein’s propensity for not wearing socks and absentmindedness, but a very personal side of the man who changed how the world thinks is revealed through the women he loved and who loved him.   

Alan Safier (Einstein) manages to keep his character from lapsing into caricature and captures the humanity of this once-in-a-lifetime genius.  We see his frustration at his colleague’s lack of understanding of his Unified Field Theory and experience his pain on learning that the atomic bomb was dropped in Japan.  (Historic note: Although he had no direct participation in the Manhattan Project, Einstein had sent a letter to President Roosevelt encouraging the harnessing of nuclear fission for military purposes which he came to regret, and later lobbied to stop nuclear testing and the development of future bombs.)

Gail Bianchi plays his first devoted wife, Mileva, who appears to have been his intellectual partner.  Still in love with him and unhappy about granting Einstein a divorce, she demands that he give her the Nobel Prize money he was awarded for his paper on Theoretical Physics so that she can provide for their three children. This frees him to marry his first cousin Elsa (Terri Homberg-Olsen).  Elsa sings the very touching “Love Songs.”  The other primary woman in Einstein’s life is Helen (Dani Shear), his loyal secretary who looks after him until his death.  The trio sings “It Isn’t Always Easy Loving Einstein,” each with a crisp, soprano voice.  The lyrics help us understand why they are dedicated to him.  John Combs does an excellent job playing Burke, a reporter from the Jewish Daily Forward, who forms a close, touching relationship with both Einstein and Helen.

Given the challenges of the small Pico Playhouse stage, director Herb Isaacs did an adequate job in utilizing the space, which certainly imposed challenges and prevented more creativity in the staging.  Although it is better for American actors not to do accents unless they are very proficient, there was inconsistency in that regard.

While this aspect of Einstein’s life was not illuminated in the play to any great extent, he was an accomplished violinist, so that it is fitting that a musical be developed around his life.  It is refreshing that the expression “you left the theatre humming the set” does not apply to The Smartest Man in the World as the music is memorable.

The Smartest Man in the World plays through May 11 at the Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Boulevard, LA, 323.860.6620, westcoastjewishtheatre.org.

Related Posts

Film Review: The Northman

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

FILM REVIEWTHE NORTHMANRated R137 MinutesReleased April 22nd If the Vikings of 800-1000 AD had the technology, The Northman is the...

Murray Mednick’s “Three Tables”- Existentialism Meets Theatre of the Absurd

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

Murray Mednick’s THREE TABLES is the newest work from the famous poet/playwright who spearheaded New York’s off-off-Broadway movement in the...

Film Review: “The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent”

April 27, 2022

April 27, 2022

FILM REVIEWTHE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENTRated R107 MinutesReleased April 22nd Watching The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, I got...

Santa Monica Auctions Showcasing World Class Fine Art at Bergamot Station Auction event.

April 22, 2022

April 22, 2022

Santa Monica Auctions is hosting its bi-annual live outdoor art auction on May 15th at Bergamot Station Arts Center. See...

Help Recruiting for Good Give Back and Join the Fun at the Sweetest Earth Day Parties Ever

April 20, 2022

April 20, 2022

By Susan Payne  Earth Day is around the corner.  For Carlos Cymerman, founder of Recruiting for Good, that means the...

Santa Monica Bead & Design Show Returns to the Fairmont Miramar!

April 13, 2022

April 13, 2022

The Santa Monica Bead & Design Show will showcase a fine selection of handcraft and artisan supplies at the Fairmont...

Santa Monica to Host Venice Family Clinic’s Art Walk & Auction Gallery

April 1, 2022

April 1, 2022

43rd annual Venice Family Clinic Art Walk & Auction re-emerges with an art gallery and NFT auction April 15 –...

Honoring Women’s History Month With ‘Yarn Bomb’ Art Exhibit at Village Green

March 23, 2022

March 23, 2022

Local Palisadian Michelle Villemaire creates the sixth annual ‘Yarn Bomb’ exhibit at Village Green Park. See the exhibit in this...

Local Artists Honored at Legendary Women of Venice Awards

March 22, 2022

March 22, 2022

Venice Art Crawl hosts the 3rd annual Legendary Women of Venice Awards, find out who was honored in this video...

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Stairway of the Stars Returns for in-Person Concert

March 16, 2022

March 16, 2022

March 19 concert will feature nearly 900 elementary, middle, and high school students By Sam Catanzaro For the first time...

Young Musicians Take the Stage at John Adams Middle School for the First Time Since March 2020

March 2, 2022

March 2, 2022

Over 150 students in grades 3–8 will be performing across six different large ensembles Nearly two years after the pandemic...

Interview With Aero Theatre’s Gwen Deglise

February 22, 2022

February 22, 2022

American Cinematheque’s Gwen Deglise talks about what the theatre has to offer community By Dolores Quintana The Aero Theatre at...