Theater

The Keys To Survival

Mona Golabek’s Holocaust-themed ‘The Pianist of Willesden Lane.’

07/30/2014
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If anyone believes in the healing and redemptive properties of music, it is pianist Mona Golabek. Her new play, “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” traces the harrowing story of her mother’s escape from the Nazis on the Kindertransport and the rebuilding of her life in London, on the way to a concert music career. It opened last week in Midtown; Charles Isherwood of The New York Times calls it “deeply affecting,” noting that the play is “packed with startling setbacks … and equally dramatic triumphs.”

Mona Golabek in “The Pianist of Willesden Lane.” Cynthia N. Olkie

Now You See Her…

07/15/2014
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Is the border between life and death more permeable than we imagine? In Patrick Emile’s new musical, “As We Lie Still,” a Jewish magician in Jazz Age New York performs a shocking, mind-bending trick every night on stage — until the fateful night when the trick fails, and his life and career are changed forever. “As We Lie Still” is running at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) in Midtown.

Patrick Emile’s “As We Lie Still” investigates the border between life and death. Courtesy of Patrick Emile

Channeling Lenny

Hershey Felder’s one-man show about ‘Maestro’ Leonard Bernstein.

07/09/2014
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He captivated a nation with the power of classical music, but failed in his lifelong ambition to become a major composer in his own right. With an outsize talent, and an ego to match, Leonard Bernstein led millions to an understanding and appreciation of classical music. Now, pianist Hershey Felder channels the great musician in “Maestro,” a performance at Town Hall next Thursday night. When it ran last month in Northern California, critic Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle called the 100-minute show a “blend of biography, humor, piano virtuosity, pathos and musical appreciation.”

Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro." Michael Lamont

Now You See Her…

For a Jewish magician in Jazz Age New York, a trick goes awry.

07/09/2014
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Is the border between life and death more permeable than we imagine? In Patrick Emile’s new musical, “As We Lie Still,” a Jewish magician in Jazz Age New York performs a shocking, mind-bending trick every night on stage — until the fateful night when the trick fails, and his life and career are changed forever. “As We Lie Still” premieres July 14 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) in Midtown.

Magic touch? Scene from Patrick Emile's new musical, "As We Lie Still." Courtesy of Patrick Emile

Unleashing The Atomic Era

New rock musical focuses on moral dilemma of Hungarian Jewish scientist who invented the nuclear chain reaction.

07/01/2014
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Once unleashed, some genies are almost impossible to put back in their bottles. The unsung Hungarian Jewish genius Leó Szilárd invented the nuclear chain reaction, patented the idea of a nuclear reactor and convinced Albert Einstein to endorse the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb — only to campaign unsuccessfully for it not to be dropped on Japan.

Scene from “Atomic,” which features a huge “cube matrix” metal tower meant to suggest the periodic table. Carol Rosegg

A Yellow Star In Weimar

06/24/2014
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Life is a cabaret, as the song goes, but so, for the chanteuse at the center of Alexis Fishman’s new one-woman musical, “Der Gelbe Stern” (The Yellow Star), is death. In a nightclub in Weimar Germany, a Jewish singer named Erika Stern performs her last concert before her deportation. Reprising songs from the period, “Der Gelbe Stern” runs for five performances at the upcoming New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) in Midtown.

Alexis Fishman in “Der Gelbe Stern” at Laurie Beechman Theatre. Alina Gozin’a

What Religion Will The Kid Be?

06/18/2014
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Our relationship to our religion changes at different stages in our lives. In Renee Calarco’s new play, “The Religion Thing,” a Jewish man married to a Catholic woman finds himself at both a religious and emotional crossroads when his wife wants to get pregnant. When it premiered in 2012 at Theater J in Washington, D.C., critic Peter Marks of the Washington Post said that the playwright is astute in observing that America’s “biggest taboo isn’t talking about sex … it’s talking about faith.” The New York production, with a new cast and director, began previews this week in Chelsea.

Renee Calarco’s “The Religion Thing” turns on couples’ religious inclinations.  Teresa Castracane

Coexistence, With Oud

06/10/2014
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With all the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway, the musical’s final scene of the shtetl-dwelling Jews being forced off their land lingers in our minds. But to visual artist and playwright Tom Block, it is not just Jews, but Arabs as well, who have suffered displacement from a cherished homeland.

Artist Tom Block’s mural serve as a backdrop for play at the 14th Street Y.  Courtesy of Tom Block

A Stage For New Playwrights

06/03/2014
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New York is a mecca for Jewish theater of all kinds, but budding Jewish playwrights often have a difficult time getting their creations in front of audiences. Now comes JFest, a festival of three remarkably different new Jewish works. The festival kicks off this weekend at the JCC in Manhattan after runs at the JCCs in West Hartford, Conn., and Wayne, N.J.

“The Gefilte Fish Chronicles,” performed last year at the White House, is part of JFest theater festival. Courtesy of JFest

‘A Touchstone For Modern Jewish Identity’

The Folksbiene marks ‘Fiddler’ at 50.

06/03/2014
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For a musical about the ravages of time on an ancestral heritage, “Fiddler on the Roof” has itself aged remarkably well. While much has changed in the half-century since “Fiddler” first had its Broadway debut, the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick-Joseph Stein musical inspired by the dissolution of the Eastern European Jewish way of life still crystallizes for American Jews the value of their Jewish roots.

Andrea Martin and Harvey Fierstein starred in a 2005 revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Courtesy of Folksbiene
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