It's not always a good idea to hold community theater to the same standard as its "professional" counterpart. When workday engineers and housewives sing their hearts out on an auditorium stage, a viewer watches through a natural filter of forgiveness. So what if one performer forgets his lines or his costume falls apart? Everyone laughs, and it's all part of the experience.

Still, The King of the Schnorrers – which had its Florida premiere last weekend at the Jewish Community Center – has its moments of entertaining cultural exchange.

How The King of Schnorrers even made its way to Maitland is a story in itself. Al Krulick, the JCC's theater/cultural arts director (he's also an actor and an Orlando Weekly theater critic), stumbled upon a little-known Jewish musical by Tony Award winner Judd Woldin. (The latter's score for Raisin took the statue in 1974). Schnorrers turned out to be Woldin's reworked, rechristened version of Petticoat Lane, which he had based on Israel Zangwill's 1894 comic novella about two lovers from different Jewish sects.

Krulick loved it and went into action. His charming production sports catchy tunes accompanied by live music. Most memorable is the "Chutzpah" number, which is punctuated by a tango beat: "Chutzpah (stop) a little chutzpah (stop) goes a long, long way." And the love story is rich in history. Its setting is turn-of-the-century London, where a division exists between the Ashkenazic Jews (tradesmen descended from the ghettos of Europe) and Sephardic Jews (whose lineage traces to Spanish and Portuguese aristocracies).

Some of the actors have theater backgrounds, and their performances raise the professional level, particularly Mark Shami in his lead role of Manasseh Da Costa, the proud Sephardic beggar (or schnorrer). The characterizations essayed by the less-experienced cast members afford their own sense of amusement. In one scene, two foppish fashionistas (Aaron Tanzer and Peter Geoghegan) are conned out of their own clothes in what becomes a giggle fest – onstage and off.

Schnorrers ultimately delivers a positive message of charity and forgiveness. Plus, the knishes served at intermission are like buttah.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues


© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation