Jewish Broadway – A Treat for the Eyes, Ears and Soul
By Sandi Durell
Who knew that so many of the greatest of the great American Songwriters on Broadway (and off) were Jewish (except Cole Porter) according to historian, writer, director, host and producer Scott Siegel.
And that’s what the audience at Temple Emanuel’s Streicker Center came in droves to hear – their music performed by the best of the best of Broadway.
Taking us from the 20s through the present, the evening soared with the music of Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, Stephen Schwartz, Jerry Herman, Comden and Green, Larry Hart and Oscar Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Stephen Sondheim, William Finn (did you know he was Jewish?), Harvey Fierstein and the iconic Gershwins.
With powerful vocal expertise from the likes of Farah Alvin (“Defying Gravity” – Wicked 2003; “Don’t Rain on My Parade 1964” – Funny Girl) to the rich, poignant and nuanced baritone of Robert Cuccioli (“In My Own Lifetime” – The Rothschilds 1970; “I Am What I Am” – La Cage 1983; “Send in the Clowns” – A Little Night Music 1973) to the formidable Carolee Carmello (“God Bless America” – This is the Army 1942; “You Don’t Know This Man” – Parade 1998), the evening wound it’s way into and through our hearts and souls.
The ever loveable, uber-talented Mark Nadler, an entertainer’s entertainer, grabbed the audience with “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby” – Sinbad 1918 and proceeded to not let go, “I Love a Piano” – Stop! Look! Listen! 1915. Christine Andreas, a great interpreter of song lyrics with a stunning voice, resounded with an exciting arrangement “On A Clear Day . . . “ from that show (1965) accompanied by her composer husband Marty Silvestri as well as with “If He Walked Into My Life” – Mame 1966.
When people say it runs in the family, the perfect example is Amanda Green, daughter of Adolph Green, half of the multi award winning writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green; Amanda having recently received a Tony nomination for her Broadway musical Hands on a Hard Body. She sang not only “Used to Be” – Hands on a Hard Body 2013 (with back up singers Emma Camp and Chelsea Wheatley) but wowed with an animated “If You Hadn’t, But You Did” – Two on the Aisle 1951.
Straight from a benefit evening for the Actors Temple, 4-time Tony Nominee Tovah Feldshuh proceeded to mesmerize the audience with stories about her father, and how it all related to her love of the Gershwins. Let’s call this the Tovah – Terri Sue interlude in story and song, filled with humor and heart – touching and meaningful, sung in Yiddish and English and covering some of the great Gershwin classics i.e. “I Got Rhythm,” “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” and the Torah Blessing out of which came “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” This lady is a bundle of energy (after all she did scale Mt Kilimanjaro recently) and a joyful stage presence.
A perfect way to end a perfect evening as the cast, led by Robert Cuccioli left us with “Sunrise, Sunset” – Fiddler on the Roof 1964.
Ross Patterson helmed the piano and as music director, with Tom Hubbard on bass and Eric Halvorson on drums.
Congratulations Scott Siegel on a memorable, not soon to be forgotten evening!!