aired June 7, 2014 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/AKwmkJ31YnM
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of June 8th, 2014.
Well, it’s time for the Tonys, ladies and gentlemen. The moment when Broadway goes into a tizzy honoring and celebrating itself, while the rest of the world pretty much watches basketball. But I love the theater, and for all its eccentricities and unfairness and shows about men who dress up as women – because that’s the only thing Broadway seems to be about these days – I wouldn’t trade a night at the theater for ten nights under an olive tree with Mayim Bialik. Eleven even.
Broadway was a busy street this season, with more than 40 new productions. I haven’t seen that many openings since my proctologist made a time-lapse documentary. But you know, my interest in the Tonys is more religious than aesthetic; I want to know where the Jews are, and how did my beloved people fare in the season and in the voting.
For example, two of the five Best Play nominees were written by Jews. James Lapine wrote Act One, which has two acts (try figuring that shit out). The play concerns two other Jews – the great comedy-writing team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. You can tell they were Jews because they wrote You Can’t Take it With You, which is just the kind of negative thinking that drives Jews to alka seltzer. Also, that iconic faigele Harvey Fierstein returned to Broadway with his first new play in 25 years. Casa Valentina is about group of married heterosexual men who take two weeks off each year to cross-dress and live like women. Why anybody would want to spend a vacation being bitchy and unreasonable while fighting off periods, headaches and sagging tits is beyond me, but that’s the magic of theater.
Broadway musicals have been a traditional Jewish stomping ground, from Fanny Brice to Lonny Price, from Harold Clurman to Ethel Merman, from Jerome Robbins backstage to Baskin-Robbins at the concession stand. And it’s still true; this year’s musicals have enough Jews to start their own ghetto! After Midnight – yes, it’s crawling with schvartzes, but it was conceived by Jack Viertel. Aladdin, by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman – one’s alive, one’s dead, both were circumcised. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Not just Carole King but Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Don Kirshner, Neil Sedaka. If you threw in Phil Spector, you’d have a minyan. And a bloodbath, but still…
The most nominated show of all, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, was co-written by Jews, and a show that didn’t even get nominated, Bullets Over Broadway, was scripted by Woody Allen. The show got a Best Book Tony nomination, but don’t expect him to show up for the ceremony because he can’t find a babysitter. . . to rape.
It does pain me to say that other categories for this year’s Tony Awards are rather chary with their chosen choices. Samuel Barnett, who was in Twelfth Night, is half-Jewish, half-Quaker, which means he takes messages from the bible and turns them into whiny complaints. But I complain that none of the other Best Actor candidates is Jewish. There’s two Irishmen, a Brit and an Arab. (The Arab is Tony Shalhoub, so we won’t hold that against him.) Except for Idina Menzel, who’s so Jewish John Travolta tried to pronounce her name in Hebrew, all the best actresses are shikses and schvartzes. You have to go all the way down to Best Featured Actor to find a few landtsman. Danny Burstein playing an old Jewish man in Cabaret. He’s a little young for the part, so I’ve been coaching him phlegm-hocking lessons on his day off. You’ve also got Jarrod Spector in Beautiful. Now, he committed the biggest sin a Jewish boychik can commit – he left college in his junior year to pursue the acting. He said in an interview, quote, “It wasn’t easy to tell my parents that I was leaving Princeton” – Princeton, Gottenyu! An economics major! Why not put a stake in their hearts? And a lambchop, too?” “But my parents,” Spector said, “were phenomenally understanding.” Sure they were, Jarrod – because their oven was big enough to fit two heads!
But seriously, the kid made good. He played Frankie Valli on Broadway in Jersey Boys more than 1500 times. Spector said, quote, “There’s an Italian/Jewish closeness I think I have.” Which means, he can make you an offer you can’t stop debating.
On the whole, this was not the most Judeo-friendly year on Broadway. Yes, you had Billy Crystal in 700 Sundays, but you also had Soul Doctor, about smooth-singing, hippie-grooving, teenager-touching Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The musical sold so few tickets, they held kaddish at the box office. Harold Pinter had two plays revived – both of which were hits, neither of which were nominated. There was a play called The Velocity of Autumn, about a spunky old lady in a Brooklyn Brownstone and her gay son; both of them should have been Jewish but weren’t. That show went down faster than Malaysian Flight 370.
Meanwhile, off-Broadway, they did have one show of interest. What was it called? “Bad Jews!” Playing at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center, no less. It was all about Young-Israel types fighting over their dead grandfather’s chai necklace. Well, it ain’t Sholom Aleichem but hey, I’m not Myron Cohen, either.
So I wish mazel and congratulations on a job well done to all the Tony candidates, Jewish and otherwise, for creating live entertainment in a world where “fun” increasingly means pushing a button, sliding a mouse and staring at a screen for eight hours. I think there’s more to life than that. Anyway, if you enjoyed this Rabbinical Reflection, remember you can watch it again on youtube by pressing the URL button, sliding your mouse to the video, and watching the screen.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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