Songs by William Finn, Tom Kitt, Jeanine Tesori, Amanda Green Bring Shimmer to Stars of David Musical, Starting Oct. 17
By Kenneth Jones
The Philadelphia world premiere of the new musical song cycle Stars of David, featuring song contributions by major writers of the musical theatre, begins Oct. 17. The cast features Nancy Balbirer, Alex Brightman, Joanna Glushak, Tony Award nominee Brad Oscar and Donna Vivino.
Philadelphia Theatre Company presents the work, a musical stage adaptation of Abigail Pogrebin's book "Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk about Being Jewish," to Nov. 18 at Philadelphia Theatre Company's home, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre at Broad and Lombard Streets.
Stars of David is conceived by Aaron Harnick, and has a libretto by Charles Busch (The Tale of the Allergist's Wife). Expect "a snapshot of Jewish identity through the interviews with some of America's most recognizable public figures, including Gloria Steinem, Aaron Sorkin, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., Joan Rivers, Norman Lear, Tony Kushner and Wendy Wasserstein," according to PTC.
Gordon Greenberg (Working, Pirates!) directs the show, in which the interviews are transformed into songs by composers and lyricists including William Finn (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater (Spring Awakening), Tom Kitt (Next To Normal), Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, Or Change), Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), Marilyn & Alan Bergman (Yentl), Amanda Green (High Fidelity), Nathan Tysen & Chris Miller (The Burnt Part Boys), Will Aronson, Dan Messe, Susan Birkenhead (Jelly's Last Jam), March Shaiman (Hairspray), Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire (Closer Than Ever) and one of the last songs written by the late Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line).
Greenberg told Playbill.com in between rehearsals, "Working with Charles [Busch] and this extraordinary cast has been invigorating — and a laugh fest. We continue to play with the balance of the show. It's a hybrid form; part documentary song cycle and part narrative play at the center. And of course, we have an exceptional — and diverse — group of song writers: 22 of them.
"Our creative team is more of a community. But it's a diverse and fascinating one. Our writers add many more levels to the spectrum of ideas put forward in the book on which the show is based. It took some time to coordinate efforts and figure out the puzzle of how to make all the pieces fit. But isn't that the perfect metaphor for interpreting cultural identity? It seems somehow appropriate — and it makes the show very rich indeed."
The creative team includes set designer Beowulf Boritt, costume designer Alejo Vietti, lighting designer Howell Binkley, sound designer Robert Kaplowitz, choreographer Jeff Rhodes and music director Jeff Marder.
Opening night is Oct. 24. Tickets starting at $51 are available by calling the Box Office at (215) 985-0420 or visiting PhiladelphiaTheatreCompany.org.
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