Casman, Nellie

Born 1896 in Proskurov, Russia. Died, May 27, 1984 in New York City. Casman came to US in early 1900s. She began in the Yiddish theater as a child star. She performed in Yiddish theater in South America, Europe and throughout the US playing comic Yiddish roles. Nahama Sandrow, in her bookVagabond Stars, refers to Casman as “one of the rare female kuplétists, tiny and round…” The kuplét was a comedic patter song that had little to do with the action of a show. In some shows Casman combined this with the “red hot mama” style where she “starts to shake her bosom, which makes one cozy curve from shoulder to waist. She vibrates all over, till even the absurd red flower sticking up on top of her head jiggles, too and she looks down at her own chest with such childlike surprise and satisfaction that the audience roars with delight.” She performed in shows such as “The Girl from Argentina” and “The Drunkard”. These antics and her suggestive lyrics were criticized by some, but audiences loved her. She also wrote music. The most famous tune she composed was, “Yosel, Yosel.” Casman married Samuel Steinberg with whom she collaborated on “Yosel, Yosel” and many other songs and shows. They wrote “The Showgirl” a musical comedy that was performed in 1982 at the Shalom Yiddish Musical Comedy Theater at Town Hall in New York. Casman lived in Manhattan and died at St. Vincent Hospital at age 88. (Special thanks to Victor Berch, retired Brandeis University Special Collections Librarian, with research help for this entry.)