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.

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SHLEMIEL’S Final Surge – Judy Gold’s Opening Salvo

We closed SHLEMIEL THE FIRST on January 20 with a sold out weekend. We surpassed budget expectations by $4,000. Much more importantly, we came together as an ensemble during the last 2 weeks of the run to deliver our best performances and sent hundreds home every night with big ole smiles on their faces.

In our fastest turn around ever, Judy Gold has blazed into town and we had our first performance of 25 QUESTIONS FOR A JEWISH MOTHER last night to 160 folks who responded with explosive laughter and pin drop silences during the incredibly varied and ultra dynamic piece. We’ve got a record advance for the show – we’re already third of a way toward our $77,000 single ticket goal. All of it’s hefty — our goals, her salary, the expectations — and the joy here is that we’re gonna make it — I’m somewhat hopefully absolutely sort of nervously cautiously wildly giddily worriedly optimistic.

Hey, that should be a song in the sequel to the (rancidly insipid, though I haven’t really seen it yet) musical I LOVE YOU YOU’RE PERFECT NOW CHANGE – a title almost as long as LOVE AND YEARNING IN THE NOT FOR PROFITS AND THE ANNALS OF HIGHER LEARNING (coming to a theatrical multiplex near you sometime this century).

Don’t miss Judy Gold. A whirlwind force of nature. A white Alyson Palmer (of BETTY RULES fame). A great person to have in our community. After one lovely day together, I can report that it’s been a very happy time.



SHLEMIEL THE FIRST inspired theatergoer and artist Carol Morgan to put pen to paper and create this sketch of Daniel Hoffman and David Julian Gray. See the show and let it inspire you! If the show inspires you to write a 5 minute play then send it to Hannah before Friday, January 11 and it could be read on stage by professional actors in 5X5: Playwrights Respond to SHLEMIEL THE FIRST.

Amazing Music, Happy Times

Here’s our end-of-year vow: Accentuate the awesome, emphasize the excellent, extoll the extraordinary, and banish the bad from our blog; at least for this holiday week. Today, Sunday, is a two-show day and in the middle of our two shows, we just got finished conducting an amazing conversation with SHLEMIEL THE FIRST violinist Daniel Hoffman and clarinetist David Julian Grey about the origins of the klezmer revival and their respective roles in helping to bring this (originally described as “Jewish dance band”) music to ever wider audiences. 60+ people from our sold out house of 220 stayed to hear Daniel talk about composer Hankus Netsky’s dip into the archival treasures of Jewish music for the score of SHLEMIEL. And then Daniel demonstrated on the violin his approach to composition on the current musical slated for a spring world premiere at Theater J, DAVID IN SHADOW AND LIGHT. Daniel ended the roundtable playing for us the young shepherd boy David’s lullaby to King Saul. It was lyrical and soaring and, you might say, touched the heavens and brought back a tear drop. That’s how beautiful it was.

And here’s another beautiful thought: The play keeps getting better and better. This afternoon the actors delivered their tightest performance yet. And now time to hear from our audience. The legions that are enjoying the hell out of themselves. We’re gonna be posting responses to the play, the production, as Joel Markowitz comes around over the holidays and we discuss ways of Interviewing our Audience! I think that will be an extraordinary opportunity — to hear directly from audiences leaving the theater. Let’s see what they have to say! And let’s hear from you as well.

I’m going out to the Midwest for 5 days with my family. Back on the 29th and right into more workshops for the musical DAVID with the great Daniel Hoffman, Yehuda Hyman, Nick Olcott and our design team. Today we had our choregraphers, the gifted duo from the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange of Peter DiMuro and the other Dance Exchange company member, Shula.

So stay tuned for audience feedback, more good words and good news on the little klezmer musical that’s selling up a storm… And making a whole lot of people happy too. Happy Shlemiel Times.