Allan Merovitz Performer Storyteller Actor
If Cows Could Fly: A Musical Play

". . . a lovely heartwarming evening for the whole family"Avril Benoit, CBC

"... It’s all done with great energy and authority; both in speech and song Merovitz seems to have every Canadian and U.S. idiom down pat." Robert Cushman, National Post

"Merovitz is a good storyteller and a beautiful singer, and If Cows Could Fly is laden with songs ranging from fiddle and country ballads to klezmer and jazz standards."Joanne Huffa, Eye Magazine

"Tracing his ancestry back to its eastern European roots, storyteller/musician Allan Merovitz uses his family to play out several strands of the 20th century Jewish experience in Europe and Canada...with tales of shtetles, immigration to Canada and moving Yiddish melodies." Jon Kaplan, Now Magazine

Mooove over, pa - the cows are coming home!

Created and performed by Allan Merovitz, a Dora-award winning actor and internationally renowned singer and Klezmer musician, this Jewish-Canadian musical has been produced in Toronto, Winnipeg and Hamilton Ontario. Robert Cushman of the National Post reported that the production was "all done with great energy and authority," while Paula Citron of Classical 98 called Merovitz "a gamin-like, energetic, charming performer."

Allan has been working on the material that makes up this play for over a decade, taping interviews with family members and doing research on Jews in Canada and North America. At the same time he was turning into one of the foremost interpreters of Yiddish music in Canada.

Allan the child asks "Why? Farvos?  Why does it hurt to be called a dirty Jew, an immigrant bastard?" In seeking answers, Allan finds tales of fleeing from the shtetle of Ozeroff in Poland, of leaving Riga in Latvia, of escaping the pogroms in Kishinev near the Black Sea, tales of diamond workshops of Amsterdam, on to London, a sea voyage to Canada, to the fishing town of Canso in Nova Scotia, to Montreal and finally to Smiths Falls in the Ottawa Valley.

Asking "Why?" unearths a number of mesmerizing stories. How Zaide escaped being conscripted into the Russian army by the Cossacks. How a ghost helped Frume leave her marriage and start a new life with her two children. How Bubbe Oudel supported her family – and the whole neighbourhood – during the hungry depression. How Uncle Hy, war hero and demolition expert, solved the problem of "No Jews Allowed on this Road". Why Aunt Nellie wouldn’t sell a pair of tight-fitting shoes. And then there are Ottawa Valley characters like Scotty Cohen, the Jewish horse whisperer, and Leonard Applebaum, dairy farmer and country-and-western radio station operator.

Running through all the stories is the indomitable spirit to survive, persist, and transcend. An impossible dream could come true only "if cows could fly". Impossible? Maybe it’s just a matter of getting really good at something – making shoes, shooting pool, remembering who you are.

If Cows Could Fly traces the story of both sides of Merovitz's family - Waxman and Merovitz - from Poland, Lithuania and Kishinev to the rural Ontario community of Smiths Falls. Allan has assembled the fragmented memories of his family into an enchanting saga, interspersed with a wide range of musical styles: Yiddish songs, country-and-western ballads, as well as Klezmer and Ottawa Valley fiddle tunes. East meets West in a musical blend that is quintessentially Canadian. It all comes together in Merovitz's portrait of his crazy cousin Leonard, the dairy farmer who dreams of flying to Nashville on his prize Holstein Rosie.

Ronald Weihs, who directed this play on three occasions, comments: "I had a great time working with Allan on this play. It runs the gamut from wacky to fascinating to deeply moving. It's a kaleidoscope, always full of surprises. Most of all, it's about tolerance and understanding between people from different backgrounds. The positive, affirmative spirit of this play is even more pertinent today than when Artword first produced it seven years ago."

In addition to chronicling his family history, Merovitz portrays his own struggle in coming to terms with a dual identity: heir to a tradition that spans millennia and being just a modern Canadian kid. A master of mimicry, Merovitz plays numerous colourful characters, including his entire family and many others besides. But he is not entirely alone: he is joined onstage by an accomplished trio of musicians equally at ease with Klezmer and Country.

"What does 'If Cows Could Fly' mean? It means making the impossible tangible," Merovitz says. "How do we do this? Through a belief in ourselves and in the generosity of so many people who help us along the way. Music is a way to express this and have a good time. We smile, we laugh, we sing, we dance."

Reviews and Praise for "If Cows Could Fly"

Patrick Langston
The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, February 23, 2008

A young Ottawa Valley lad couldn't have wished for a more fascinating older cousin than Leonard Applebaum. A dairy farmer, Leonard not only operated a country music radio station out of his barn, yodeling in Yiddish before morning chores, but once rode a flying Holstein named Rosie to Nashville. At least, that's the way Allan Merovitz relates it in If Cows Could Fly, the revival of his gentle and uplifting one-man musical play that just opened at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre.

Merovitz's big-hearted show is about growing up Jewish 50 years ago in Smiths Falls, the actor/musician's hometown. It's also about family, community and hope, things we increasingly hunger for even as we seem to grow ever more skilled at banishing them from our lives. At over two hours, this Artword Theatre/Barry Karp production is a little too long for a one-person show. But you can understand Merovitz's difficulty: where to cut a family history so rich with life? With little more in the way of set and props than a wooden chair, a hat and a yarmulke, and a small desk, Merovitz takes us from the turn of the twentieth century to the early 1980s, when he wrote If Cows Could Fly. We journey with his working class grandparents and their children as they flee oppression in Eastern Europe, settle in a Nova Scotia fishing village, and, like many Jews, eventually wind up with their expanding family in a tightly knit community in the Ottawa Valley.

Nimble and electric with energy, Merovitz plays a dizzying array of characters, from his own beloved zaide (grandfather) to a crusty customs official, family member Scotty Cohen whose horse can explain the meaning of life, and, of course, himself, both as a small boy in a small town and as a grown man looking back on his family's story.

Merovitz also sings wonderfully, whether a plaintive Yiddish tune or a country number (this is, after all, the Ottawa Valley). An agile Klezmer trio, including the show's director Ronald Weihs on fiddle, accompanies the songs and dances.

There are a couple of shaky transitions in Merovitz's show, and the intermittent vintage photos on the stage's rear-wall screen can be distracting, but you're quick to forgive the missteps. Don't miss this show. Buoyed by goodwill and renewed belief in possibility, you'll leave the theatre glancing to the sky for that flying cow. If Cows Could Fly continues on the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre's mainstage until March 9.

Ottawa Morning, February 25, 2008
Review of If Cows Could Fly
CBC Ottawa

Alvina Ruprecht, interviewed by Hallie Cotnam

Hallie: Now the other play, the other new production, If Cows Could Fly, that we heard a little snippet at
the top [Allan Merovitz singing A Purim Song].

Alvina: That was in Yiddish, actually, what he was singing..

Hallie: What is that play about?

Alvina:  It’s about being a Jew in Smiths Falls. But it’s also about Jewish immigrant history and about the immigrant
experience in 
general. About coming to Canada from Poland, Latvia, the Baltic States, Russia. It’s about living in the
Maritimes, eating fish, coming to the “groys shtetl” of Montreal and about finally settling in the Ottawa
Valley.  Allan Merovitz is lovable and enchanting. He’s a wonderful storyteller. He takes on the voices of three 
generations of men who tell his story. He sings, he mimes, he brings to life a whole community of characters.
And with him on stage are three Klezmer musicians who play everything from Klezmer to Pontiac County 
step dancing and Ottawa Valley country music, and it works. It’s wonderful.
At the end we learn that cows CAN fly, Hallie, and it’s a miracle.

So catch up on your Yiddish.Go see this. It’s a fine evening. I laughed, I cried. I had a wonderful time. And that was it.

Hallie: You liked it.

Alvina: Oh yes, I loved it. You can understand because he translates most of the things as he goes along.
So there’s no language problem at all.

Hallie: Thank you very much Alvina.

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