Tovah Feldshuh: Aging Is Optional

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Tovah Felshuh

Aging Is Optional
Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, February 6, 2020
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester

Tovah Feldshuh

In the words of Monty Python: and now for something completely different. This applies to Aging Is Optional, an encore of a previous outing of the show at Feinstein’s/54 Below in which Tovah Feldshuh presented one of the delightfully quirky cabarets she’s known for. The singer/actress came dressed for action. In a simple, basic deep-blue pair of slacks with a matching long-sleeved top, Feldshuh, the multiple award-winning star of stage, screen, and TV created magic—and a fascinating story arc—with perfectly selected costume props. Feldshuh did not open with a song, but with a narrative about her recent gig in the 2013 Broadway revival of Pippin as the trapeze-swinging Berthe, grandmother of the title character.

Flash backwards to childhood some decades ago, and her first song of the set was Peter Pan’s “I’m Flying” (Mark Charlap/Carolyn Leigh), with “When I Was a Boy” (Dar Williams) delivered next. What followed became a one-woman variety show, with song and patter interwoven––clever, touching, and funny with many more moods in between. Such was her presence that her musical accompaniment was delivered by a single piano, manned by music director James Bassi. The diminutive Feldshuh needed no more; she filled the stage to capacity. She told her overarching story from several points of view, including her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her own at various stages in her life. Particularly touching was the story of how she met her husband of 44 years. Her straightforward rendition of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Ewan Maccoll) was deeply heartfelt.

Many numbers were delivered as story songs, including as “Beautiful” (Carole King) and the compelling “New Words” (Maury Yeston). There was plenty of comedy. Feldshuh is funny! You’d expect that from a performer who described cabaret as “the most intimate experience you can have without a condom.” Her renditions of Ray Jessel’s “Mon Amour” and “Where’s the Bathroom?

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” (Rachel Bloom/Adam Schlesinger/Jack Dolgen) were priceless. There were character bits too. She became a hilarious Jewish radio host at one point as well as a fragile old man, touchingly singing Craig Carnelia’s “Joe.” But for sheer hilarity, her Notorious RBG “Rap-B-G” (James Bassi), a madly clever piece of Ruth Bader Ginsberg rapping, was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that will ever remain memorable. To wrap things up it seemed only natural to end with “You Make Me Feel So Young” (Josef Myron/Mack Gordon), morphing into Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”

But there was more! Feldshuh’s encore, from Pippin, “No Time at All” (Stephen Schwartz) had her in cheerleader mode, conducting a sing-a-long, as lyrics flashed on the room’s monitors. Crafted by Feldshuh, with flawless direction by Jeff Harnar, Aging Is Optional proved not only a superbly entertaining show but one with thoughtful take-aways. Clearly, she conveyed, as the human condition flows from youth to maturity and beyond, that the light of possibility should ever lead the way.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.