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HTAA's Multi-Generational Trip to NYC

08/15/2014 11:20:47 AM


Upon the 69th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, respectively), a multi-generational group from Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim traveled to New York City to watch the Off-Broadway musical, Atomic, about Leo Szilard, a Jewish-Hungarian brilliant physicist, who co-designed - together with Robert Oppenheimer, Hernico Fermi and others - the atomic bomb.

Szilard had discovered the nuclear chain reaction, and after he had moved to America, he joined the US government's top secret program - codenamed "Manhattan Project" - to build the bomb. But when he learned that the A-Bomb is going to be dropped on Japanese cities, he had serious reservations.

Szilard was so troubled that he organized a petition - signed by 60 scientists from the Manhattan Project - opposing the use of the atomic bomb on Japanese cities (Nazi Germany had surrended by then), and tried to get it delivered to President Truman. The petition, most probably, never reached the President.

On the way to New York and back, we held vigorous discussions of the ethical dilemmas involved in the decision to use the atomic bomb on civilian population to end the war with Japan. Our most senior participant, Bob Abrams, wrote a review of the play: 

I traveled to NYC with the HTAA group to see the Broadway musical "Atomic" and was very surprised to see a show that far exceeded my expectations.  

The performance:

The staging of the musical was excellent.  I was most impressed with the lighting that added a dimension that surprised the audience and fulfilled the awesome power of nuclear warfare.  The opening scene of the Japanese lovers caught in the atomic flash brought the audience to the seriousness of the plot.  The clear, mellifluous voice of Euan Morton as Robert Oppenheimer begged attention and kept the audience on edge to see and hear more.  The plot was well conceived and did not result in boring scenes.

The cast:

The voices of all the singers were superb and the melodies fit into the frame of the seriousness of the plot.  The acting was up to par for a Broadway experience.

Negative notes:

Sometimes the voices of the actors did not project well into the entire theater.  The female voices were subdued and I (with a hearing difficulty) had trouble understanding the words.  There were too many times that the orchestra's loudness overrode the voices of the singers; my friends with good hearing agreed that this was a problem for them too.

The portrayal of Paul Tibbets did not come across as a serious bomber pilot who had been on multiple raids over Japan.  I thought the show did him an injustice; he has a place in history and the author dishonored his relevance.

All in all, great show.  I hope it goes on the road.  It would do well in my city, Washington, DC, and probably anyplace that has a well educated populace.


I lived through WWII as a teenager.  My brother Morris was on a troop ship sent to Japan for the invasion when Hiroshima was destroyed, leading to the surrender of the Japanese before the land invasion began.  I do not share Dr. Szilard's moral dilemma, but I do sympathize with his conscience.   

 -----    Robert Abrams

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