Streicker Center, Temple Emmanuel, NYC, March 13, 2017
Reviewed by Ron Forman for Cabaret Scenes
The Jewish influence on the Broadway musical theater cannot be over emphasized. As Scott Siegel jokingly remarked in his introduction to Jewish Broadway, you can describe the great Broadway composers as all Jewish except for Cole Porter; and even Porter allegedly told Richard Rodgers that he was a not a success until he learned to write “Jewish music.” In addition, this celebration of the Jewish contribution paid tribute to Jewish stars Al Jolson and Fanny Brice and shows with Jewish themes: Fiddler on the Roof, The Rothschilds, and Parade. Producer Siegel put together a stellar cast of outstanding singers to perform the 18 numbers in the production.
Siegel introduced the first song saying that such a small portion of the population having such a huge impact defies gravity, which led into Farah Alvin performing “Defying Gravity.” Alvin also displayed her amazing ability to hold notes breathlessly with “My Man” and her thrilling next-to-closing number, “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Robert Cuccioli’s great baritone worked wonderfully on “Send in the Clowns” and two of Broadway’s great anthems: “In My Own Lifetime” and “I Am What I Am.” Mark Nadler got down on his knees to do an Al Jolson-ish “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” and returned to do a virtuoso performance of “I Love a Piano,” allowing him to display his incredible skill as a pianist. Christine Andreas did a lilting “I Could Have Danced All Night,” a number that she performed starring in the 20th anniversary revival of My Fair Lady. Carolee Carmello closed the first act with an especially moving “God Bless America,” including the seldom-heard verse. Amanda Green performed “If You Hadn’t, But You Did” written by her dad, Adolph Green, and Betty Comden (with music by Jule Styne), and later showed off her songwriting genes with “Used to Be,” which she wrote for Hands on a Hard Body, sharing composer credit with Try Anastasio. The highlight of the show was a medley of George and Ira Gershwin material performed by Tovah Feldshuh (pictured) where she traced the origins of the melodies, including “Of Thee I Sing,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “Lady Be Good” to Yiddish and Hebraic melodies he had heard as a child. The show closed appropriately with Cuccioli leading the cast in “Sunrise, Sunset.”