The Conspiracy

Jews & musical theater: 2 great tastes that taste great together! [Seriously Stereotyped]

http://newvoices.org/2011/11/14/jews-musical-theater-2-great-tastes-that-taste-great-together-seriously-stereotyped/
Fanny Brice

Who doesn't want to see a musical about Fanny Brice? | Photo by Flickr user Fr. Dougal McGuire (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s official: “Funny Girl,” the musical semi-biography based on the life of Fanny Brice, will not be coming to Broadway anytime soon. According to Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times, the production is having “economic difficulties.” News of this tragedy made several excited yentas planning their mid-winter Broadway trip plotz. Thousands of gay Jewish boys have moved in on the Imperial Theater, where “Funny Girl” was to show it’s face, in a protest aptly named “Occupy Fanny.” Or at least that is what would have happened if a snowstorm hadn’t put a damper on things. You may not be able to rain on their parade, but you can certainly snow on it. As of now, there is no word on replacing any of the cast members (as much as I’d love to see some -berg’s, -ski’s, -witz’s, and -stein’s) or anyone on the production team. Might I suggest that they hire Mel Brooks and have the bagel shop bring over a spread? This production needs an infusion of Jewish culture.

In other theater news, the King of the Jews is returning March 1st. After 12 years off Broadway, “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be returning to The Great White Way at the Neil Simon Theater – ironic, since Neil Simon is everyone’s favorite Jewish playwright. When first produced, the show garnered protesters claiming the “Superstar” was blasphemous for its portrayal of the Bible. Now it is a bread and butter show for high schools around the country. For Jews, it’s just another pleasant reminder that Jesus was not only Jewish but talented in the Jewish art of musical theater.

When I read that major mensch Mandy Patinkin would be teaming up with Patti LuPone once again for a Broadway concert, something crossed my mind; maybe the Jews are coming back to town! After a drought of Jewish culture on the Broadway stage, maybe even Jerry Herman’s (Hello Dolly!, Mame, La Cage aux Folles) lesser known “Milk & Honey” will get its moment. The show was Herman’s first major musical.  It’s about the origins of the state of Israel and starred the legendary Molly Picon. It recently had a brief run at Theatre Row’s Lion Theatre – but could this uprising of Jewish characters catapult it back into a major theater?

Does this mean that even the most epic and beloved of all Jewish musicals, “Fiddler on the Roof,” might be headed for a revival? Although it was produced as recently as 2004, the demographic of Hebrew school field trip organizers will always miss its Broadway days. If those seem likely to return, the producers should play it smart and hire Mandy Patinkin for Tevye.

Geoff Edelstein grew up in the cozy Connecticut hills where people thought that brisket was the name of his dog. Periodically his parents would bring them to New York City, where they grew up. There he learned of the wonders of Judaism. Back then, he was a big Jew in a small pond. Now, he’s a little Jew in a big pond. By day he is an English major, by night he is the Managing Editor of The Acorn, Drew University’s student newspaper. Nevertheless, people still think he has a dog named Brisket.  His column, Seriously Stereotyped, appears here on alternating Mondays.

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