New York's Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre staging a revival of the musical Songs of Paradise, Oct. 31-Dec. 23, officially opening Nov. 8.
The show, which is being produced under a Hebrew Actor's Union Contract, features a five-person ensemble who play multiple roles. Authors are Miriam Hoffman and Rena Borow (book) and Rosalie Gerut (songs, adapting the lyrics of poetry by Itsik Manger). The show adapts such biblical tales as Adam and Eve, Joseph and his brothers and the Jacob-Rachel marriage deal into the Purimshpiel tradition of Eastern European travelling Yiddish performing troupes.
According to a MediaBlitz spokesperson, the production team includes director Avi Hoffman, who was nominated for the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for his solo show Too Jewish? and who appeared in the original Off-Broadway staging of Paradise in 1989. Hoffman has made clear in Too Jewish and Too Jewish, Two, that poet Manger is a personal favorite and strong influence on his own work.
Folksbiene artistic directors Zalmen Mlotek and Eleanor Reissa (another veteran of the original Paradise cast) are the musical director and choreographer, respectively. Starring are Theresa Tova, Spencer Chandler, Jake Ehrenreich, Lia Koch, Yelena Shmulenson-Rickman.
Performances will be held at Theatre Four, 424 W. 55th St. For tickets ($35-$40) and information call (212) 239 6200. The company will also offer a multi-media children's show, 2001: A Space Mishegas, Nov. 11-23, penned by director Joanne Borts, Michael Fox and Zalmen Mlotek, who choreographs. The show is being billed as "ultra-hip...featuring diverse musicians, puppeteers and a cast of adult and young actors... 90 percent English plus 10 percent Yiddish equals 100 percent fun!"
Founded in 1915, the Folksbiene is the oldest continuously-running Yiddish theatre in America. By the late 1930s, the company kept several plays in repertory, according to spokespersons at MediaBlitz. A few years ago, Eleanor Reissa and Zalmen Mlotek took over as co-directors from Zypora Spaisman, hoping to broaden and bring younger people to the theatre's plays and audience. Spaisman went on to found the Yiddish Public Theatre last year, which produced a revival of Grine Felde ("Green Fields").
— by Diane Snyder and David Lefkowitz