Believe It Or Not (2008) – It Was a Very Good Year (Our Best)

If we had time today to reflect instead of crazy prep for two shows tonight — the 7:30 sold out performance of SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS (our 12th sold out show out of 13 performances thus far), followed by the 10 PM New Years Eve concert of Serendipity 4 (Theo Bikel’s quartet comprised of the equally estimable Tamara Brooks, Merima Kljuco, and Shura Lipovsky) –we’d be perusing through this year’s blog entries–not to mention box office night end reports–to recount Theater J’s most popular and financially successful season ever. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? In the midst of this economic turmoil and all our nation’s–not to mention Jewish community’s–financial instability, Theater J offerings were never more boisterously attended, nor more remunerative. Dare we review?

SHLEMIEL THE FIRST: A musical derided by Mr. Marks as “Jewish Hee-Haw” eclipsed projections, built an enthusiastic following, divided our regulars, and made us smile every single night as audiences lingered for the klezmir jam session between the fabulous trio of top-flight musicians.

JUDY GOLD in 25 QUESTIONS… Swore like a sailor. At all of us in the office. All the time. And occasionally on stage. And we loved her all the same. And she brought box office gold too. And tons of mothers and daughters and grand daughters. She’s got a new show that just opened in Boston. She says I’m an anti-Semite if I don’t book her tomorrow. I might have too.

THE PRICE: The Proskys broke all box office records during their historic run–until Sandra Bernhard broke those (in her differently historic run). Until Bikel smashed hers. It’s been that kind of season. But Bob Prosky was irreplaceable. And his performance as Solomon, unforgettable.

DAVID IN SHADOW AND LIGHT: Our biggest undertaking. Our biggest risk. Our biggest achievement in pulling off. Our biggest disappointment in not being more roundly embraced. Our proudest badge of honor and courage. And our steepest learning curve. All good. All forward.

SANDRA BERNHARD IN WITHOUT YOU I’M NOTHING: She made of us better bloggers. Or more gun-shy. But the performances were so brilliant. I’ve never enjoyed a provocation more. And the rock sounds, the lounge ambiance, the buzz, the cachet, the intensity of what was going down on our stage and between performer and her audience, was too cool. We made Sean Hannity and Rush and David Duke.com. And can’t stand any of ’em. And they couldn’t stand Sandra. And we’re still getting their hits. And the show remains such a huge hit and another badge of honor. Rock on Sandra at Joe’s Pub tonight!

HONEY BROWN EYES: Watch for it on the cover of American Theatre Magazine in February when the script gets published. Couldn’t be happier for our playwright, and for our staff who produced the shit out of our Ethics and War reading series and the best discussion panels to grace our stages since PANGS OF THE MESSIAH. This was our PANGS of the season. And here’s to many more.

THEO BIKEL in SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS: We’re extended. We’re sold out every night. The work resonates in the deepest sense. And it’s breaking every box office record we previously set this extraordinary season.

So let’s ring in the new year with a sense of relief, gratitude, sadness, humility, shared appreciation for the opportunities we’ve seized, the connections we’ve forged, the relationships we’ve savored, the community we’ve nurtured and served and derived such satisfaction from.

Here’s to a great staff. A great audience. A great and growing circle of artists. And to all those angels who graced our stage for a final performance and have left us all the richer, the wiser, the more human.

Let us count blessings. And believe in Obama. And in our own work, marching forward.

Happy new year all. Much love.