Friday, April 25, 2008

A Critique and A Heads Up

OK--this is not Tevye it is the late Shlomo Carlebach aka the ordained Rabbinical Jewish Rock Star. I made that up.

On May 4 on SUNDAY SIMCHA you will be regaled with comments and music from a wonderful new musical now playing a limited run--SHLOMO THE MUSICAL-- at the Museum of The Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan (in a setting that boggles the mind). It is also fitting that at this point it is being performed in a limited engagement at this venue which is in sight distance of Ellis Island. More on that later.

I have the distinct honor of having Daniel Wise, writer and producer of this work on TABLETALK with me on May 11 where we speak of this terrific piece of work and also on SUNDAY SIMCHA May 4 with some music from the show.

While this is a limited engagement at the Museum (after many successful presentations at various venues--Folksbiene among them) a Broadway production is planned in the autumn of this year.

My radio program(s) cannot possibly encompass the program and what one can get from it visually. It behooves me, then, to try to mention and describe some of the visual things that make this an "event" one would not want to miss. Note I said programs. Reb Carlbach encompasses both the Jewish tradition and the folk and music of peace you all know I have featured many times on all programs---from Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary, Phil Ochs--to Rabbi Kligler and Kim and Reggie Harris---and NOW the music of Shlomo Carlbach as done by him (later) and by members of this brilliant cast.

Without giving much away I have to relate a great bit of business from the show. An agent who represents, among others Peter, Paul, and Mary approaches Carlbach to offer him his services by telling him that he represents PP&M---Carlbach replies that he is sure that is good but that he, Shlomo, is not well versed in the new testament.

The interviews you will hear if you tune in to the programs mentioned before will be with Daniel Wise--book/producer--of


Putting on my "reviewers" hat now I can tell you that this past day I went down to this wonderful venue and viewed a show I thought might be interesting but not more than that. There I was, once again, wrong. Not to compare shows but to give you an idea of the quality---think Fiddler on The Roof combined with Al Jolson as the Jazz Singer.

Do you like Gospel Music? I do. Do you like Jewish liturgical music with a beat? I do. This show has it all---let us say Jewish Gospel and also the Nina Simone connection.

Dance. You cannot want more. Talisim used as both, Talisim, Flags, Shawls, Color, you name it.

Is there a fault? Sure. My only problem was ---sitting close--realizing that some of the "male"dancers were women with fake beards--who doubled as the female congregants. They were good but the sad fate of sitting too close is seeing that blemish. You won't notice it after Row J.

The performers were an amazing group of Tony nominated artists and I just want to single out 2 here---even though the entire cast is laudable:

Thursday Farrar who played the part of Nina Simone.. Yes, Shlomo Carlbach was a compatriot of Nina Simone prior to her rise to fame and rose to fame along with her. Ms. Farrar brings a great gospel sound to the show---though a bit miscast in an early scene with "Chassidic" hat.

David Rossmer as Shlomo---you can believe me he does not look like that in the show---look at the top and you have him as Shlomo. Having appeared in many productions, he has also been on Law & Order SVU--and who has not. An industry unto itself.

At this point I just want to add the name of one other performer because, while I cannot mention them all I single her out for her involvement with the works of Eliz. Swados ( my guest on TABLETALK--and how it started years back). That would be Josie Di Guzman (mother) who created the character she portrayed years ago in Swados' RUNAWAYS and now does a brilliant piece of work as Shlomo's mother.

If you can see this show prior to its ending of the limited run on May 9 I believe you will be delighted. Hopefully, a Bway run is planned for late fall.

A few sidelights now regarding some personal observations and---call it an essay. I do hope you speak Yiddish---I will translate the end.


How fortuitous that SHLOMO,THE MUSICAL is being performed just across the street.

The other day I had the pleasure of spending the day with my daughter and grandchildren going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (more interesting---enough said) after enduring the over 2 hour wait (normal procedure) to view these wonderful historical sites.

My compliments to the Park Service, the Boat operators, and all involved with the operation for their patience and courtesy---that includes the most pleasant security screeners (who really are efficient)you meet prior to embarking for the Statue. WOW---Embarkation. Seems like my embarking for the USA those many moons ago went faster.

So, a few brief thoughts. The statue was, as always, an impressive sight which, now, one cannot really enter anymore. Ellis Island, to me, more interesting with the great renovation and historical presentations offered.

Now a tale of something that has "bugged" me since being there---and which, to some extent, SHLOMO, The Musical addresses. Follow this shortened story:

Ellis Island. 4 PM Film on the history of immigration to the USA. Doors Close
4:10 Knock on the Door to Auditorium
4:12 Pounding on Door
4:15 Viewer of film opens door and in stream some 30 or so Hasidim. Lights go on. Seats grabbed and people stepped on.
4:20 I say--Turn off the lights --the show started 2omin. ago.
4:20 (response) We don't care--we want to see it--its a free country.
4:21: (me) Since I am Jewish you will understand this---"it is free no thanks to you---you are "grob Yidn" and should be ashamed of yourselves".
4:22 I and my family left.

The thought here is twofold---the Ranger Service should not leave the theater unattended --they do a really great job in all other areas. The other thought is that this is exactly the kind of situation that brings about the generalizations that lead to bigotry. Black or White. Jew or Gentile. I am sure, hopefully, that these boorish representations of Hassidism are not the norm.


Anonymous said...

I had to use a Yiddish dictionary but I think I got the meaning of your saying, "grob Yidn," and I do understand from my perspective. Too bad your grandchildren missed the film, you and your daughter also. I would agree with your remedy for the Park Service to remain present. Are you going to share the experience with them? I think I would. Best wishes, Ellen

Anonymous said...

Thanks---and good idea about letting the Park Service know---will do.