Helane Blumfield, Lynda Rodolitz, Peggy Schwartz, Deborah Zecher: 4 Women 4 Stories

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Helane Blumfield, Lynda Rodolitz,
Peggy Schwartz, Deborah Zecher

4 Women 4 Stories

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, May 22, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

A quartet of self-described “middle-aged Jewish uncommon women” took the stage of Don’t Tell Mama to tell their stories: stories of their ancestors, their careers, their children, and their futures. Told via a mix of spoken word and songs (mostly by Jewish writers), with a healthy dose of humor, this immensely moving show thrilled a packed audience.

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Under the strong guiding hand of director Lennie Watts and the music direction of Bobby Peaco, who contributed some splendid vocal arrangements for the group numbers, including the opening number, “I Want It All,” which featured special autobiographical lyrics by the director.

Each of the women established her own personality.

Rabbi Deborah Zecher offered up a revised version of “I’m a Woman” to reflect her challenges and strengths pursuing an unconventional career choice; later she offered a touching “In My Daughter’s Eyes” (James T. Slater) during a segment on motherhood.

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Helane Blumfield followed with her tale of being an intentional single mom, delivered with an emotional honesty that heightened her performance of “Someone to Fall Back On” (Jason Robert Brown), allowing her presentation to build and build.

Peggy Schwartz brought emotional power to another Brown song, “You Don’t Know This Man,” after using the same spirit to knock out the brassy Kander and Ebb “Showstopper,” energizing all that followed. Lynda Rodolitz was the comic of the group, bringing a finely-honed dry humor to “One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man” (Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green), as well as a touching depth to “If I Could Have Been” (Micki Grant).

But the most powerful and emotional moment of the show came when the foursome joined together on Neil Diamond’s “America,” featuring another brilliant vocal arrangement, interspersed with tales of family history about the emigration of their ancestors to this country.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."