Klezmerizing Tony Nominee Reissa Sings Hip, Heymish and Hot at NYC's Houseman

News   Klezmerizing Tony Nominee Reissa Sings Hip, Heymish and Hot at NYC's Houseman
The happy wail you've been hearing on Sunday evenings as you pass the John Houseman Theatre on West 42nd Street is the sound of Tony Award nominee Eleanor Reissa singing with a klezmer band in Hip, Heymish and Hot.
Eleanor Reissa
Eleanor Reissa

Subtitled Eleanor Reissa Sings Yiddish Soul, the limited engagement celebrates "the vitality of Yiddish music and humor," and plays only to May 15. It's one of the last tenants at the Houseman, which will be razed come summer to make way for new development on the block.

Peformances began March 20 and play Sundays at 5 PM.

Produced by Julian Schlossberg and Stuart Howard, "Hip, Heymish and Hot is a young woman's personal journey into this unique, soulful culture, seamlessly blending English and Yiddish with passionate folk songs, classics of the Second Avenue Theater, and stirring expressions of love, piousness and protest," according to production notes. "You don't need to be Jewish or understand Yiddish to enter into this world, thought to be gone. You'll laugh, cry and realize you understand more than you thought!"

Heymish is Yiddish for "homey" or "folksy."

Eleanor Reissa — a Tony Award nominated director who is also a playwright, actress, choreographer and singer — created the new piece, and draws inspiration from many sources. A Brooklyn-born daughter of Holocaust survivors, Reissa's musical life was influenced by classic jazz, and rock as well as shtetl songs and Broadway. Hip, Heymish and Hot "combines all her influences and melds them into a show heartening to Yiddish as well as non-Yiddish speakers."

Joining Reissa each week are guests who include Elmore James, an African-American bass-baritone star of Broadway and operas.

Included in the show are theatre songs such as "Yosl, Yosl" by Nelli Casman, "Ikh Zing" ("I Sing") by Abe Elstein and Molly Picon, and "Sheyn vi di Livone" ("As Beautiful as the Moon") by Joseph Rumshinsky, sung in a sultry Peggy Lee "Fever" style, as well as a Yiddish duet (with Elmore) of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" with its Yiddish counterpart "Vi Nemt Men Parnose" ("How Can You Male a Living?") and a medley that includes a Negro spiritual with the song "Alle Brider" ("We Are All Brothers").

Reissa most recently directed Tony Award winners Frances Sternhagen and Richard Easton in J.M. Barrie's Echoes of the War at Off-Broadway's Mint Theater. Her third play Thicker Than Water was recently presented at Cleveland Play House's New Play Festival and will be performed this spring at Stamford Center for the Arts' Fringe Festival.

For five years she was artistic director of the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, the oldest professional Yiddish theatre in the world.

As an actress, she received critical acclaim in the Off-Broadway revival of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Yentl. She was Tony Award nominated in 1991 as Best Director for Those Were the Days, billed as "The New English-Yiddish Musical Revue." She also choreographed it.

The John Houseman Theatre is at 440 West 42nd Street. For ticket information, contact Telecharge.com, (212) 239-6200.

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