"Got bentsh Amerike, land vos Ikh lib
Shtey-zhe bay ir, madrikh zay ir
Iberal laykht a shtral undz tsulib."
Yes, God bless America, for where else could you produce an entire CD of Broadway star Mandy Patinkin singing in Yiddish -- and then turn it into a theatrical concert? The singer/actor's latest album, "Mamaloshen," released on Nonesuch Records Feb. 24, mixes Yiddish standards ("Oyfn Pripetshik," "Belz," "Raisins and Almonds") with translated American numbers (Paul Simon's "American Tune," "Take Me Out To The Ballgame.")
Patinkin will take Mamaloshen the show to Off-Broadway's Angel Orensanz Foundation Center, July 21-Aug. 22. The venue could hardly be more apt, since the Orensanz Center is actually a synagogue, built in 1850 by architect Alexander Saeltzer.
On the CD, Judith Blazer (Titanic) joined on some tunes, while violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg plays on a medley of "The Old Gypsy" and "White Christmas" (penned by the very un-goyish, Irving Berlin). On stage, Patinkin will be joined by violinist Saeka Matsuyama and pianist Eric Stern.
Said Patinkin in a statement, "Yiddish is not a religious language; it's a street language... It's not my intention to literally trace the history of Jewish or Yiddish music...but I have always been interested in what Jewish musicians and composers have done to assimilate."
For the compact disc, arranger Paul Ford helped the singer assemble a team of translators and language coaches to bring Patinkin back to his Yiddish roots -- a suggestion first made to him by mentor Joseph Papp. Patinkin, a former principle on TV's "Chicago Hope," appeared on Broadway in Evita and Sunday in the Park with George, as well as special concert outings. He recently finished a 40-city concert tour.
On CD, "Mamaloshen" (which literally means "mother tongue") was produced by Tommy Krasker and taped at NYC's Hit Factory, August 1997. The stage version is produced by Dodger Endemol Theatricals.
For tickets ($40) and information on Mamaloshen at the Orensanz Center, 172 Norfolk St., call (212) 239-6200 (starting June 25).