Tonight at 7pm, the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF), is presenting Broadway: A Jewish American Legacy honoring Jerry Zaks, iconic 4-time Tony Award winning director and Bruce E. Slovin, the Founder of the Center for Jewish History and former Director of Circle in the Square Theatre. Award Presenters will include SAG/AFTRA Award-winner, 6-time-Emmy Award nominee and four-time Tony Award nominee Victor Garber, David Hyde Pierce, Gavin Creel, Ron Rifkin, Liz Larsen, Eleanor Reissa, Richard H. Blake, Katrina Lenk, Judy Blazer, Joanne Borts, Glenn Seven Allen, Elmore James, Stephanie Lynne Mason, Sophie Knapp, Adina Verson, Rachel Policar, Rachel Zatcoff, renowned cantor Magda Fishman. The Jewish Legacy Award-winner: Chris Massimine (NYTF CEO/Event Producer), Zalmen Mlotek (NYTF Artistic Director/Event music director and conductor), Motl Didner (NYTF Associate Artistic Director/Event Curator), Jamibeth Margolis (NYTF General Manager and Casting Director/Concert Director) are all involved. Gala Co-Chairs consist of Robert De Niro, Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Sheldon Harnick, Chazz Palminteri, Daryl Roth, Emanuel Azenberg.
Public Theater Brings “The Ally” Forward for an Intense Debate
So here’s the pickle. This play, The Ally, clocking in at a far too long two hours and forty minutes, throws controversy at you in numerous long-winded speeches one after the other, filling your brain with details and complexities that clash and do battle with each other from beginning to end. The structuring is intelligent, as the Public Theater‘s new play, The Ally, written by Itamar Moses (Outrage; The Band’s Visit) and directed with precision by Lila Neugebauer (Second Stage’s Appropriate), strides forward into dangerous territory with determination against all odds. Wickedly smart and articulate, the play, in general, overwhelms the intellectual senses. It’s factual and intricate, somewhat off-balanced and attacking, delivering detailed positions with fiery accuracy, which only made me question whether I wanted to sit this one out. Or step more in.
It’s unsafe and determined, placing the action (or inaction, if you really want to get into it) inside a college campus, and attempting to engage in deep-level conversations and arguments with the complicated issues of the world. These are exactly the debates worth having, says basically one character to another, in the tradition of arguing. Because banning free speech is “weird on a college campus.” These conundrums and conflicts are core to passionate dialogue, and just the idea of having them is meeting with fierce debate at universities and colleges across the country. The complexities and the tipping points are layered and real, swimming in a sea of questions about what free speech really truly means, and how differing points of view, civil dialogue, and the stark polarization contrasts collide and enflame. And how, in discussion, defensiveness and aggressive emotional stances are taken on and used against one another like weapons; bullets, and missiles. I even feel a bit worried that taking this stance of wanting to back away might be taken as ‘part of the problem’.
The program notes that “the theatre is a safe space in the most literal sense of that term: no one is going to be physically harmed during this performance in the Anspacher. But it is most decidedly not a safe space if by that term we mean a space where everyone will feel comfortable and no one will feel angry, saddened, or offended. It can’t be that kind of space. The theater depends on conflict – the form itself refuses the idea of a single truth. It’s why I [Oskar Eustis; Artistic Director of The Public Theater] believe that theater is the ultimate democratic art form – just like citizens in democracy, the theater demands that we listen to and share opposing viewpoints, and that from that conflict, a greater truth will emerge.” And I couldn’t agree more with that.
Yet, even with such heightened emotions on stage, delivered full throttle by the excellent cast that includes Cherise Boothe (Signature’s Fabulation,…) as Nakia; Elijah Jones (Signature’s Confederates) as Baron; Michael Khalid Karadsheh (Target Margin’s The Most Oppressed by All) as Farid; Joy Osmanski (“Stargirl“) as Gwen; Josh Radnor (LCT’s The Babylon Line) as Asaf; Ben Rosenfield (RTC’s Love, Love, Love) as Reuven; and Madeline Weinstein (BAM’s Medea) as Rachel, who each try to make it sound more authentic than the writing really allows, the play suffers from how deep of a dive the writing goes. But not without a solid attempt by this cast, bringing qualities and characteristics to the forefront whenever they are given the chance. But a lot of the time, like their main focus, Radnor’s Asaf, they must stand and listen to whoever has the microphone at that one particular speechified moment. And wait, just like us, for the next round. And viewpoint.
Playwright Itamar has certainly dived fully into some of the most difficult topics of our time and asks us to patiently listen to all sides, even when the dialogue doesn’t really resemble discussion but more like informed lectures or one-framed speeches. On the plainest of sets, designed by Lael Jellinek (Public/Broadway’s Sea Wall/A Life), with costuming by Sarita Fellows (Broadway’s Death of a Salesman), lighting by Reza Behjat (ATC’s English) and sound design by Bray Poor (Broadway’s Take Me Out), The Public‘s The Ally, uncovers some emotional space within the manifestos presented. Itamar states in the note section: It “wasn’t that i had nothing to say,” he carefully explains, like the main character who has to stand back and take on the full force and brunt of the argument. “Rather, I didn’t know where to begin because what I had to say was too confused, too contradictory, too raw.” And if that was the complicated stance he was trying to unpack, the playwright succeeded tremendously well.
But does that make The Ally, at The Public Theater, especially this long-winded one, worth sitting through? I’d say yes, and I’d say no. I couldn’t wait to leave that debate hall, but I was also impressed and intrigued by the arguments presented and discussed, even if ‘debate’ would not exactly be the word I would use for the ideas thrown around at one another with brutal force. One of the later statements said to Radnor’s Asaf by his ex-girlfriend, Nakia (Boothe) at maybe one of the few truly emotional moments of actual human souls speaking their truth, sums up my stance. “The thing you need, may not be words.” I won’t argue with that.
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The Hotel Edison Opulent and Convenient with History
George Burns and Gracie Allen lived on the 9th floor of The Edison Hotel. Their friend Jack Benny lived on the 4th floor. Moss Hart lived there after his Once in a Lifetime was a Broadway hit. He then moved his parents there until he found them an apartment. The Edison Hotel is featured in the movies “The Godfather” and “Bullets Over Broadway”, so history abounds.
Located at 228 West 47th Street, you are down the street from Six, Hamilton, Prayer for the French Republic and Sweeney Todd. Across the street is the Barrymore Theatre, but all of Broadway and Times Square is a hop, skip and a jump away. Talk about location, location, location.Built in the late 1920’s, Art Deco abounds from the hotel lobby to the lights and the bed spread in the lush rooms. The hotel is elegant and feels like you stepped back in time. My room was spacious with a king-sized bed that was so comfortable, I wish this was a staycation where I could have spent more time catching up on sleep. I also had a small sitting room with a couch, desk and more windows with views.
The rooms are well designed with great features, such as a Keurig coffee maker and coffee, black-out drapes, windows that opened, and a full-marble bathroom. In the bathroom fluffy towels, designer toiletries and a hair dryer awaited me. The spacious shower also had a relaxing rain shower. In the closet a safe, iron, ironing board and fluffy robes.
There were also two flat-screen high-definition smart TVs, Bluetooth-enabled audio, high-speed Wi-Fi which made my life so much easier, and an alarm clock.
The room was ultra clean and to get to it you need a room key, which you also need for the elevator, so you feel incredibly safe.
Another fun fact…when you arrive you will have a personalized note waiting just for you and some lovely snacks, which were highly appreciated considering I had been running all day and needed a pick me up.
Amenities to the hotel are a gym, two fabulous restaurants, a piano bar, complimentary wine and cheese receptions (Tuesday & Friday), with entertainment, as well as complimentary walking tours of the neighborhood.
You would think for this much pampering and convivence this hotel would be overpriced but it is not. There are rooms are the best offer and prices in town.
If you are looking for history, comfort, boutique, friendliness and luxury, this is the perfect place to stay.
The Edison Hotel: 228 West 47th Street
Going Down The Rabbit Hole To Discover A Fabulous Unheard Treasure of Linda Eder
In February one of my favorite singers is coming to 54 Below on the 6, 13, & 17. Linda Eder is forever linked to Broadway history via her Theatre World Award winning performance in Jekyll & Hyde. Her concerts sell out and the reason why is her voice is remarkable.
In 2020 she release an album that somehow slipped through my radar. Retro – volume two is full of Broadway and Standards. There are 17 tracks on the CD. Most are written by Frank Wildhorn with the exception of four tracks. There are two pop tracks, one written by Frank Wildhorn and one written by Jake Wildhorn. She recorded the vocals for four of the tracks at home by herself due to social distancing. This CD is only available at LindaEder.com.
Guest stars on the CD are Will Lee and Michael Lanning. Songs from Bonnie & Clyde, Svengali, Tears of Heaven, Havana andThe Last Five Years are heard here.
I can not believe this slipped through the cracks, but thrilled to find it. Can’t wait to see her at 54 Below.
Celebrating Love in Times Square
There’s no better place to say “I love you” than Times Square. On Valentine’s Day 2024, New Yorkers and visitors alike will once again declare their love and celebrate their relationships at the Crossroads of the World through surprise proposals, weddings in the heart of Times Square, and a Vow Renewal Ceremony on Duffy Square’s iconic Red Steps.
Felicia Finley Shines in From Backwoods to Broadway
As Broadway veteran Felicia Finley proves in her one woman cabaret show, From Backwoods to Broadway, which she showcased at The Green Room 42 in NYC this week, you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. And that’s a very good thing!
She began her journey as a performer when she started singing at age four. Her first big break came at age nine, when she was cast in the Broadway company of Annie…and her first big heartbreak came when the show closed the very next weekend. Her early career was a roller coaster of promising opportunities and dashed hopes. She might have co-starred in the film of Gypsy opposite Bette Midler had five foot one Ms. Midler not refused to stand on a box to look Ms. Findley in the eye. But that’s show biz.
Finally her talent prevailed. She made her Broadway debut in Smokey Joe’s Café, before going on to play Amnaris in Aida, April in the original cast of The Life, and to create the role of Linda in The Wedding Singer.
Along the way, Ms. Finley has never lost track of her gospel roots, or her love for Patsy Kline. Her rendition of “Sweet Dreams”, one of Patsy’s big hits, was a highlight of the evening, flavored with the smoky sound that makes Ms. Finley’s voice so distinctive. Not surprisingly, Ms. Finley won a “Best Actor” award for portraying Ms. Kline in A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline at the Meadowbrook Theatre in Rochester, NY.
Ms. Finley was ably accompanied for this performance by her talented musical director, Michael McBride.
Under the direction of JoAnne Zielinski, From Backwoods to Broadway is like spending a welcoming evening in the intimate warmth of Ms. Finley’s living room. The next chance you get to see her, don’t miss her.
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