Part of KulturfestNYC’s Encore Series, this show also celebrated the impact of Jewish songwriters on Broadway musicals and marked the centennial of The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene which co-produced it. This is the oldest continually performing Yiddish theater company in existence.
Mr. Bikel played Tevye over 2,000 times on the road and one of his Goldes, Rebecca Hoodwin wonderfully hosted the tribute segment to him. She reminisced about their last performance in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Bikel performed a private concert for the cast and told stories about Bob Dylan. There were illustrative stills and film clips highlighting his legendary career on stage, film and television as a folk singer, and as a political and union activist, having been the president of Actors Equity from 1977 to 1982.
Jonathan Hadley who appeared with Bikel as Perchick fondly recalled him, and sang powerful renditions of “Tradition” and “If I Were A Rich Man,” and then did a charming duet of “Sunrise, Sunset” with Ms. Hoodwin. Peter Davenport who played Captain Von Trapp in a recent tour of The Sound of Music did a tender version of “Edelweiss” with Jon Peter Lewis on guitar. David Edwards, who played one of his sons in a touring production of The Rothschilds, told of their time together and sang a commanding “In My Own Lifetime.” For the finale of this portion, the youthful Andrew Keltz and Russell Fischer did a stirring duet of “We Want Everything” from that musical. Mr. Fischer also passionately sang the folk song “Shalom.”
Music director Ben Krauss was on piano and very skillfully accompanied the wide variety of performers during the concert.
Maddy Trumble began the show with a haunting “How Deep Is The Ocean?” Jon Peter Lewis sang a soaring, “Summertime,” and also played guitar. “I Got Plenty Of Nothin’” was a dazzling number as performed by the animated Lawrence Craig who was unamplified and included cool dance moves. With straightforward simplicity, Loni Ackerman’s take on the perennial “I’m Still Here” was flawless and compelling.
Selections from more contemporary Broadway musicals were represented by the excellent performances of “Blame It On The Summer Night” from Rags by Elyssa Mactas, “All The Wasted Time” from Parade by Sean McDermott and Ashley Moniz, “Live Out Loud” from A Little Princess by Abigail Shapiro, “What Would I Do?” from Falsettos by Amos Wolff and Alan Wiggins, and “Anytime (I Am There)” from Elegies by Jessica Mortellaro.
The rousing finale was “Heart And Music” from A New Brain, with Wolff, Wiggins, Mortellaro, Trumble and Garth Kravitz.
The affable Christopher Massimine, Executive Producer/COO of The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, opened the show with brief introductory remarks. He conceived and produced this event with Jamibeth Margolis and Megan Minutillo. Ms. Minutillo also directed it with an accomplished quality of pacing and keeping all of the performing, presentational, and production elements connected during the lively 85 minute program.
Shown on two large television monitors on either side of the stage was very well produced documentary footage chronicling the history of Jewish songwriters and their times. Immigration, The Great Depression, and the Broadway Theater were among the topics concisely covered. Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Maltby, David Shire, Stephen Schwartz, William Finn, Andrew Lippa and Jason Robert Brown were all mentioned during the chronological commentary.
The intertwined three features of Another Hundred Years made for a joyous and thoughtful concert that vividly conveyed the courageous spirit, cultural significance and tremendous artistry of Theodore Bikel.
Another Hundred Years (August 5, 2015)
KulturfestNYC of The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, in Manhattan
Running time: 85 minutes with no intermission