That’s the sensation I got on a visit to the Museum of Broadway, which opened last month. A three-story tribute to the Theater District located in its very heart, it is organized around a series of rooms dedicated to landmark musicals and plays, and the majority bear the stamp of Jewish creators: Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Showboat,” Richard Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!”, Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.”
Other projects dedicated to the history of Broadway aren’t shy about noting the over-representation of Jews in the business. “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy,” a documentary that seems to run on a nearly endless loop on my local PBS station, notes that “over the [first] 50-year period of its development, the songs of the Broadway musical were created almost exclusively by Jewish Americans.”
If the Museum of Broadway acknowledges this, I didn’t notice. Some might take this as an omission or a snub, the way critics objected when a new museum about the history of Hollywood initially overlooked the essential Jewish contribution to the movie business. But in this case, the Jewishness of Broadway is taken as a given. You’d have to be culturally illiterate not to notice how many of the most celebrated creators are Jewish: In addition to the musical tributes, there are wall placards singling out the contributions of Sondheim and the director Harold Prince, a corner devoted to “Fiddler on the Roof” and a gallery celebrating Joe Papp (born Joseph Papirofsky) and his Public Theater, that reliable pipeline of breakthrough Broadway shows.
(There were, however, frequent mentions of the specifically African-American contributions to Broadway. That seemed a deliberate attempt to counter perceptions that Broadway is indeed the “Great White Way.”)
The museum, whose opening was delayed by the pandemic, is a collaboration with Playbill, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (which is supported by a portion of the stiff $39 admission charge), the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, Concord Theatricals and Goodspeed Musicals. Its approach is chronological, with a timeline that pulls visitors from room to room, from vaudeville, through Broadway’s “Golden Age” and up to the present. Original costumes and props are on display in Instagram-ready settings that resemble the original sets for various shows.
Among the paraphernalia and stagecraft are a number of Jewish highlights. Here are seven:
A whirligig of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals
Just past the cornstalks celebrating the ground-breaking 1943 musical “Oklahoma!” is a wall display showcasing the duo’s most important collaborations, including “Carousel,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I,” “Flower Drum Song” and “The Sound of Music.” Rodgers, working with Hammerstein and before him Lorenz Hart, wrote more than 900 songs and 41 Broadway musicals. Combine that with Hammerstein’s work with Kern, and it is hard to imagine two more important figures in the history of musical comedy.
Jerome Robbins’ notes on “West Side Story”
Look closely at this list of proposed scenes for a musical based on “Romeo and Juliet” and you’ll see the word “seder.” Robbins, the choreographer, originally proposed that the show focus on a star-crossed love story between a Jewish girl and an Irish boy, but he and his fellow Jewish collaborators — composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and playwright Arthur Laurents — soon felt the interfaith idea had already been exhausted in plays like “Abie’s Irish Rose.” When the show premiered in 1957, the gangs were Puerto Rican and a medley of ethnic whites.
Florence Klotz’s costume “bible”
Costume designer Florence Klotz frequently collaborated with Prince and Sondheim. The museum displays her sketches for Sondheim’s “Follies” and “A Little Night Music.” Born in Brooklyn, Klotz would win six Tony awards. She died in 2006. The museum also includes an entire floor dedicated to the “backstage” talent: costume and set designers, stage managers, prop masters and writers.
A shrine to “Company”
Sondheim and Prince emerge as the museum’s lodestars. “Their intense and fruitful partnership and their creative trailblazing in [the 1970s] resulted in an extraordinary artistic innovation and a slew of provocative new works,” a wall card proclaims. “Company” (1970) was a largely plotless exploration of urban anomie. The museum calls it a “frank, even painful look at modern life,” perfectly attuned to the upper-middle class theatergoers who, it says, are the “backbone” of the Broadway audience. It’s the show people love or hate if they love or hate Sondheim. The “Company” exhibit includes photos of the original cast and spare set, and a backdrop that draws on the recent gender-bending revival.
A tribute to Joseph Papp
Joe Papp flipped the script on how shows made it to Broadway: His Public Theater produced edgy off-Broadway plays that drew audiences downtown, and then successfully transferred that same buzz to the “Big Stem.” Papp, a son of Yiddish-speaking parents who grew up in a Brooklyn slum, founded the New York Shakespeare Festival. A section of the museum includes costumes and posters from important productions that originated at The Public — including wildly popular revivals of “The Pirates of Penzance” and “The Threepenny Opera” — and a dress Meryl Streep wore in her Broadway debut, in “Trelawny of the ‘Wells.’” Two other musicals developed at The Public — “Hair” and “A Chorus Line” — get their own tribute rooms.
Al Hirschfeld’s barber chair
The museum has an entire gallery dedicated to the work of artist Al Hirschfeld and his caricatures of Broadway stars and productions from 1923-2001. His pen-and-ink drawings were a visual shorthand for “Broadway,” and it would sometimes seem that the stars he drew would come to resemble his drawings, not the other way around. The museum includes his wonderfully kooky Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl” and a bearish, brooding Zero Mostel as Tevye. On display is a barber chair similar to the one he used in his studio (the original had fallen apart by the 1990s).
A stage set from “The Producers”
You can sit behind a desk and pretend you are Broadway producer Max Bialystock, who was played by Nathan Lane in the phenomenally successful 2001 musical adaptation of Mel Brooks’ 1967 film about the worst musical ever staged for Broadway. The display is a reminder of the impact of the show, and not only on ticket prices: It proved the viability of adapting movies for Broadway, and earned a record-setting 12 Tony Awards. The museum calls the musical, with its tap-dancing Nazis and sweet and conniving Jewish protagonists, a “glittering homage to Broadway’s past” — a past that is unmistakably Jewish.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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