Entitled "From Shtetl to Swing," the hour-long program will air Oct. 5 at 8 PM ET on WNET/Thirteen; check local listings. Written and directed by Fabienne Rousso-Lenoir, the program will boast vintage performances by Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Eddie Cantor, Molly Picon, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman as well as music by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Harold Arlen. "From Shtetl to Swing" spotlights Jewish popular entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century. "Bursting with pep and ambition," reads production notes, "these first- and second-generation Americans became cultural pioneers, eager to shake off their past yet taking full advantage of their Yiddish musical heritage. And when they joined forces with the black musicians around them, the results were irresistible. Identifying with black music, Jewish artists projected their own roots onto the black condition. Sharing a history of slavery, exile and marginalization, the match was a perfect fit, and jazz became the prayer of secularized Jews."
Host Harvey Fierstein won two 1983 Tony Awards — Best Actor in a Play and Best Play — for his groundbreaking opus Torch Song Trilogy. He also won a Best Book of a Musical Tony in 1984 for Jerry Herman’s La Cage aux Folles, and a Best Actor in a Musical Tony for Hairspray. Fierstein’s other plays include Safe Sex, Spookhouse and Forget Him. His film credits include “Independence Day,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “The Times of Harvey Milk” and “Torch Song Trilogy.” He wrote and starred in HBO’s “Tidy Endings,” which brought him an ACE Award. Fierstein also published the children’s book “The Sissy Duckling" and can currently be seen onstage at the Minskoff Theatre in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof.
For more information visit "Great Performances" on-line at www.thirteen.org or www.pbs.org.