"Shlemiel Crooks": A New Passover Tradition

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This April 1st won't be the first time literary agent Anna Olswanger sees her award-winning children's book Shlemiel Crooks transferred to the stage. Last year, the family musical had its premiere at the Kaufman Center's Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. Now, it's become an annual event at the Merkin on the Sunday before Passover. The actors are members of the Poppy Seed Players. The story was inspired by Olswanger's father and great-grandfather. And the narrator is Jerry, the family dog.

What's it take for Shlemiel Crooks the musical to arrive, the perfect fit, on a Memphis stage? Anna Olswanger grew up the daughter of "Mr. Music of Memphis" himself, Berl Olswanger.

"We're hoping that after this second performance we — the playwrights, the composer, the lyricist, and I — will be happy with the script and can consider it finalized. Then we'll submit it to play publishers so that other theaters can license Shlemiel Crooks directly," Olswanger wrote earlier this week by email.

"But even before we get it published, I hope to contact Memphis theaters to see if I can interest one of them in a production. It would be great fun to present the musical in Memphis, because my dad, who was greatly loved in Memphis and dubbed 'Mr. Music of Memphis' by the local press, is the major character (as a kid)."

For some background on Shlemiel Crooks (the book), see Anna Olswanger's recent article in the Jewish Standard. For information on Shlemiel Crooks (the musical), go to the Poppy Seed site at kaufman-center.org/mch.

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