Terezin Show Makes It To N.Y.

Special To The Jewish Week

It was the show that wouldn’t die.

Karel Švenk’s “The Last Cyclist,” written and performed in the “model” concentration camp of Terezin, comes to the Upper West Side this weekend after a circuitous route to the New York stage.  The cabaret-style play, which is a farcical allegory of the genocide of the Jews, was banned by the Jewish Council in the camp, for fear of reprisals from the Nazis. Adapted by Naomi Patz, it has its New York premiere at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew after productions in St. Paul, Chicago, and other cities.

Naomi Patz adapted the wartime play, “The Last Cyclist,” which will be staged at the West End Theater.

Russian-Jewish Identity, Lost And Found

New theater troupe, a division of the Folksbiene, mounts second production digging into Russians’ complex background.

Jewish Week Book Critic

The struggle to free Soviet Jews was one of the most successful protest movements in history, and it brought close to three-quarters of a million Jews to this country. But just a few decades later, studies show, many Soviet Jews feel alienated from both their Jewish and American identities.

Émigré community finds new voice in Lost and Found, Russian division of the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater, which premiered “Covers”

Do Germans Obsess About Jews?

Special To The Jewish Week

Is anti-Semitism at the root of German national identity?

Tuvia Tenenbom’s “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room” looks at contemporary German views about Jews.

Channeling Sophie Tucker

Special To The Jewish Week

She broke taboos by publicly celebrating her body at a time when women were expected to be quiet and demure. Now Sophie Tucker, the “Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” comes back to life for one night only in a rollicking cabaret performance by singer Cheryl Ann Allen.

When the show ran last October at the Players Theater, David Noh of Gay City News gushed that Allen “richly captured Tucker’s stentorian, heavily exhalatory delivery” and that she “sang with a better, more powerful voice than Sophie herself.” Joel Martin plays Tucker’s longtime accompanist, Ted Shapiro, in the concert, which runs next Thursday evening at Don’t Tell Mama, a nightclub in the theater district.

“Cheryl Ann Allen Sings Sophie Tucker,” which runs 90 minutes, is written and directed by Allen’s husband, Ian Finkel, son of the Emmy Award-winning Jewish entertainer Fyvush Finkel. Ian, who is a virtuoso xylophonist, performs often with his brother, Elliot, the acclaimed pianist and conductor.  (They appeared together in 2010 with their father as part of a superb show at the Folksbiene called “Fyvush Finkel Live.”)

Tucker, who began her career singing in her parents’ delicatessen in Hartford, became famous in vaudeville for bold, brassy numbers like “Some of These Days” (which became the title of her autobiography), “I’m Living Alone and I Like It,” and “Life Begins at Forty.” Her most famous Jewish song, “My Yiddishe Mama,” which she sang both in Yiddish and English, stoked memories of immigrant parents on the Lower East Side for Jews who had already moved out to Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Joyce Antler, who teaches at Brandeis, has written widely on American Jewish female comedians. In an interview, she noted that Tucker “put women’s pleasures and desires at the center of her songs.” By using her humor to “push immigrant song narrative from lament to a more energetic and robust gaiety,” Antler explained, she “exposed the disabilities of traditional female roles.”

Her physicality was a key to her success. “She was a big, solid, tough woman,” Allen told The Jewish Week, comparing her to Bette Midler, who followed to some extent in Tucker’s footsteps. “She wasn’t physically beautiful, but she was beautiful in her own way — she gave money to charities, synagogues, even prostitutes who needed help taking care of their children.” And like Bella Abzug, Allen said, Tucker “came out and said what she thought. She had a different sound. She spoke about life.”

“Cheryl Ann Allen Sings Sophie Tucker” runs on Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th St. Cover charge is $15 plus a two-drink minimum. For reservations, visit

Cheryl Ann Allen portrays Sophie Tucker in one-night revue.

Klezmer Score Soars In ‘Megile’

Dov Seltzer’s music lifts Folksbiene’s inventive romp of a play sky high.

Special To The Jewish Week

Subtlety was never a hallmark of the Yiddish theater. Born of the intensity of diasporic Jewish life, it was bold, brash and in-your-face, built on an unstable, unpredictable mix of comedy, music, dance and drama.

Scenes from the rollicking “Megile of Itzik Manger,” with Stephen Mo Hannan and Stacey Harris, . Photos by Crystal Arnette

High Stakes Fight Over Kosher Meat Prices

Special To The Jewish Week

Call it the kosher meat version of the Boston Tea Party.

“The Great Struggle for Cheap Meat.”

Too Little Revealed In ‘Assembled Parties’

Richard Greenberg’s Upper West Side drama turns on the idea of hiddenness.

Special To The Jewish Week

Long one of the most Jewish neighborhoods in New York, the Upper West Side is often said to have lost much of its ethnic Jewish flavor.

Jessica Hecht, far left, Jeremy Shamos and Judith Light. Joan Marcus

Parlor Room Drama

Special To The Jewish Week

Moving to the suburbs was one of the biggest steps that many New York Jews ever took, one largely made possible by postwar Jewish builders and entrepreneurs. But what about those who could not afford to move?

Victoria Castle, Don Arrington, Tony Rossi and Sam Heldt in "The Invention of the Living."

Unglued On The UWS

Special To The Jewish Week

What is the spiritual inheritance that children receive from their parents?

Jessica Hecht , Jeremy Shamos, and Judith Light star in Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties.”

A Slimmed-Down ‘Fiddler’

Special To The Jewish Week

True to its vertiginous title, “Fiddler on the Roof” has become the most elevated and exalted of all Jewish musicals. Now comes a touring production of “Fiddler” that seeks to bring the musical down to earth with a focus on the show’s simpler, purer aspects rather than its larger-than-life qualities.

“Fiddler on the Roof” will be performed in Rockville Centre and at Lehman and Brooklyn colleges.
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