WHEN: Saturday, November 7, at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 8, at 2:30pm
WHERE: Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, 411 E. Clinton St., Tenafly
Tickets are available on the JCC website, www.jccotp.org or by calling (201) 408 1493.
To help support Palisades Players as a thriving theater arts center in the local community, ticket/sponsorships are also available.
For local theater fans as well as performers and creative teams eager to explore a new venue for their talents, the debut of Palisades Players at the Kaplan JCC in Tenafly is the answer to many performing artists’ dreams. The new community theater will present its premier work, an upbeat musical revue. The show highlights the contributions of many great Jewish composers, librettists, and writers whose works have been performed on Broadway. In addition, it explores the many ways these works reflect the American-Jewish experience over the years. (Image: Tim Connell coaching a scene from the show with cast member Ariel Abergel, as he is about to sing "You Won't Succeed On Broadway," a song Tim sang in Spamalot on the Broadway Tour.)
Featuring cast members with years of professional experience on and off Broadway, as well as the best local talent, the show has been conceived and directed by Deborah Murad Nesser, a highly regarded singer and actor, who has played lead roles such as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof and Marion in the Music Man. Bringing enormous talent and experience to Palisades Players, she conceived the premier production, a project she long envisioned, to showcase the enormous and enduring impact Jewish composers have had in shaping Broadway.
“The Jewish contribution to the American musical theater songbook is vast and significant,” says Murad Nesser. “I’ve always envisioned putting together a show that would bring this fact to light in a way that would inspire, educate and celebrate. Broadway: A Jewish Experience does just that!”
Palisades Players is the brainchild of Julian Millstein, a successful technology lawyer making the transition into semi-retirement with a longstanding interest in theater, and Deb Roberts, Director of the JCC School of Performing Arts for more than 20 years. Mr. Milstein, who studied acting as a young man, found his interest reignited when he began attending weekly play-reading classes at the JCC.
“Immediately, I caught the bug again. In fact, I guess I never lost it. I always loved being on the stage, but, for the last 40 years, my efforts went into my law firm and career,” he says.
Retirement gave him the impetus he needed to reinvent himself. For several years, he and Ms. Roberts found themselves discussing the possibility of creating a new performance troupe at the JCC. It was a dream that Ms. Roberts had long harbored as well.
“I have always wanted to start a theater troupe which could take advantage of our proximity to New York and attract excellent talent, including the talented kids and teens who came through our school, many of whom have gone on to professional careers on Broadway,” she says. “But I didn’t want to invest time and energy to just found another amateur group. I wanted to assemble the best talent and establish a high quality theater group that could equal the great theater available just across the bridge.”
Mr. Milstein agreed and last June, about 20 people, ranging in age from 15 to over 70, showed up for the first meeting of the proposed new theater group. Some had professional careers in theater, the arts, and music; others had backgrounds with other community theater groups. Some were graduates of the JCC’s advanced drama courses. All were interested in creating something new.
“I am so happy to see this theater taking off,” says Deb Roberts. “We’ve got terrific professional and local talent and an opening show that has been brilliantly conceived. Our mission is to produce musicals, dramas and comedies that illustrate Jewish culture and tradition and to celebrate the work of Jewish playwrights and theater artists. And our first production is emblematic of that goal.”
Broadway, a Jewish Experience has attracted many talented performers of all ages: Tim Connell, an American character actor known for his prolific work in television, who taught in the JCC drama school for years, will be reprising a song he sang on the Broadway tour of Spamalot; and 7-year-old Sophie Knapp, who performed in the Broadway cast of Once, will present a funny rendition of a Barbara Streisand classic. The following talents are also part of the cast: Ariel Abergel, Mindy Barlow, Curt Buckler, Lindsay Carter, Tim Connell, Sarah Feinmark, Nancy Follender, Steven Goffstein, Deena Goodman, Jay Greenspan, Sophie Knapp, Rebecca Lopkin, Jim Ludlum, Ken Magos, Julian Millstein, Nicole Murad, Deborah Murad, Dan Nemzer, Eric Nold, Greg Paradis, Olivia Polci, Judy Rosenthal, Alan Schwartz, Julie Stiel, Lisa Tiger, Gabrielle Trumbull, Susan Vardy, Elliott Vilkas and Katie Weigl, along with, Saraya Angbazo, Shayne Barrett, Terrel Butler, Hannah Dubroff, Eitan Hiller, AJ Horowitz, Judah Lopkin, Molly Lopkin, Tomer Ophir, and Rachel Stamberg.
Both performances of Broadway, A Jewish Experience will serve as a benefit for the new company and will feature the works of Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sondheim, Bernstein, and numerous modern day songwriters.