Aired June 8, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kY7pP-rSoQ
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a special theatrical Rabbinical Reflection for the week of June 9th, 2013.
It is that merry time again when the Broadway community – those special people who sing and dance and check their voicemails twenty times a day – Broadway pats itself on the tuchas and gives out the Tony Awards.
For folks like me who love the theater, it is a time to celebrate the artistry of show business. Even in this age of Netflix and X-Box and downloaded apps and uploaded crap, something about Broadway still causes relatively sane individuals to reach into their depleted bank accounts and pony up the bills for an hour or two of live stage magic.
This season’s Tony Awards feature an array of stars, genres and talents. But as I always ask this time of year: Where are the Jews? Where do my people fit in – as they always do – in the fabric of 42nd Street. Look no further than the Best Play category, where nice Jewish boychik Richard Greenberg has a show called, “The Assembled Parties,” all about a New York family on the Upper West Side. It’s an annoying play, frustrating and not worth the effort. Why? For one thing, the Jewish family in The Assembled Parties is so assimilated, they celebrate Christmas! No explanation is given for that, so I’ll simply ascribe it to the playwright having a few too many at Joe Allen’s before tackling rewrites.
I much preferred Lucky Guy, a lively look at the newspaper business from the pen of that late Jewess, Nora Ephron. Played by Tom Hanks, the lead character is a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, morally suspect loudmouth – but he’s Irish, so that’s fine. Lucky Guy is up against The Testament of Mary, a one-woman show about Jesus Christ’s mother – ughhhhh – and Christopher Durang’s wonderful comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Irving and Leopold and Morris the Cat. The play doesn’t have any Jews in it, but it feels like good Neil Simon, so we’ll give it our blessing.
Broadway musicals up for the Tony are a distinctly goyische bunch, so we’ll skip those, although Harvey Fierstein did write the book for Kinky Boots, and Benj Pasek co-wrote the songs for A Christmas Story. I know, I know. The things Jews will do for money.
Not surprisingly, the category – Best Revival of a Musical is hopping with Hebrews. Annie has a score by Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse. It also has a Christmastime finale. Again with Jews and that farshtunkeneh holiday! Honestly, how many Mormons are writing about Kwanzaa?
Also in Musical Revivals you’ve got Pippin by Stephen Schwartz, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood written by Rupert Holmes. You know what his real name was before he changed it? David Goldstein. God forbid Rupert Holmes should keep his original handle. I guess he wanted to pass and not get beaten up by the other English boys, because, you know, “David” is such a funny, exotic name. Much better to go with Rupert. I hope he got his tuchas kicked. Oh, and filling out the Best Revival category: Cinderella, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Oscar was brought up Episcopalian – but he had a Jewish grandfather, which explains why so many characters in R&H musicals are wracked with guilt.
Returning to our Jew-spotting: special Tony Awards this season are going to producers Bernard Gersten and Paul Libin and set designer Ming Cho Lee – well, two out of three ain’t bad. And considering how much Jews love Chinese food, Ming’s borderline anyway.
A special Tony will also be awarded to Larry Kramer, who wrote The Normal Heart and founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He’s not only a Jew, and not only a gay Jew, but he’s an angry, kvetching, sentimental, in-your-face Jew – that’s like five Jews in one!
But no matter what your religion, the Tony Awards are about healthy competition and the elevation of entertainment into an art form. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, remember: other organizations give out awards for things like advertising and, God help us, country music. So hooray for the theater and blessings to Broadway. Just like the Jews, it’s a tiny little subculture, but how poor the world would be without it.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection with a standing ovation from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
(c) 2013 TotalTheater. All rights reserved.