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Musical immigrants’ tale docks in Mountain View

The streets are not paved with gold in “Rags.”

Huddled masses yearning to breathe free arrive in America only to find a country as beset by bigotry and greed as the ones they left in this scattershot immigrant story. Indeed, the Eastern European immigrants who flood into Manhattan in this predictable 19th-century tale soon find themselves stifled by stench and squalor.

With a book by Joseph Stein, famed for “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Rags” is a disappointing thematic sequel to the Tevye tale. This short-lived Broadway musical, which TheatreWorks first staged in 1989, imagines what might have happened to the villagers who made it across the sea to the new world.

It’s also an unabashedly sentimental story, bursting with lovely melodies by Charles Strouse and Stephen Schwartz, and it couldn’t be more topical in this era of border walls and travel bans. Certainly Robert Kelley delivers a big-hearted production with some touching performances and a sprawling tenement of a set design. Unfortunately the piece itself remains more of a musical pageant than a play. Overstuffed with archetypal characters that never deepen and social motifs that are listed rather than explored, “Rags” feels like a parade of cliches that occasionally breaks into song.


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