Book by Nahma Sandrow
Music by Raphael Crystal
Lyrics by Richard Engquist

Based on a beloved Yiddish theater classic, Kuni-Leml tells the happy story of two pairs of lovers who outwit all obstacles and live happily ever after.

“As universal as Fiddler on the Roof.”  —Mel Gussow, NY Times

“A charming new musical… bright and modern.” —Marilyn Stasio, NY Post

“A delightful musical farce.” —Don Nelsen, NY Daily News

“Just plain fun.” —Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

“Captivating fast-paced musical.” —John Madden, Variety

“Impeccable, stylish musical theatre.” —Laurie Stone, Village Voice

Odessa, 1880.  An old-fashioned father wants to marry off his educated, somewhat rebellious daughter Carolina.  The matchmaker finds a “perfect bridegroom”: Kuni-Leml, a pious simpleton.  Carolina is in love with her tutor Max, a dashing though penniless university student, and the two lovers decide to outwit their elders.  Max will disguise himself as Kuni-Leml and marry her in that likeness.  But the real Kuni-Leml arrives too soon, encounters his “double,” and farcical complications multiply until a happy ending is achieved for all, even for Kuni-Leml and the matchmaker’s daughter.

Based on a 19th century Yiddish operetta by Avrom Goldfadn, the father of the Yiddish theater, Kuni-Leml remained a great favorite with Yiddish audiences for decades and was translated into many languages.  Several melodies from the original score have been woven into the new version.

Kuni-Leml takes place at a fascinating moment in history.  By 1880, the liberal reforms of Czar Alexander II had started to bring Jews closer to the mainstream of society.  This was especially true for young people, who could now be admitted to universities.  But this modernizing trend was resisted in the Jewish community by the upholders of orthodoxy.  Kuni-Leml pokes fun at both camps – at the idealistic students who praise the czar singing, “Think evolution. Think revolution.  Find a solution however you may,” and the self-satisfied Hasidim who answer, “Life is good.  Living as we should.  This is life in all its glory.”  The conflict takes on a certain poignancy in light of subsequent events.  Only one year later, in 1881, the czar was assassinated, his liberal reforms were revoked, and a period of repression followed, triggering the mass emigration that brought Goldfadn and a large part of his audience to America.

Kuni-Leml played off-Broadway for a year, sweeping the 1985 Outer Critics Circle Awards for the year’s Best Book of a Musical, Best Music, and Best Lyrics, as well as the overall accolade: Best Off-Broadway Musical.  It earned three citations in the Burns-Mantle Best Plays series, including Best Musical.  Kuni-Leml was revived  in New York several seasons after its initial run, and has played in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Cleveland, and many other cities

Script, score, and production rights are available through:

Samuel French, Inc.
45 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10010
(212) 206-8990 or info@samuelfrench.com

CD of original cast recording