March 2008

In Their Own Words
• Robert Wexler
• Barack Obama
• Stern & Grossman

Special Dossier
• Pres. Primaries
• Passover PA Primary?
• Barack Obama
• Hillary Clinton
• John McCain
• Delegate Projections

Top Stories
• Lantos 1928-2008
• Nicolas Sarkozy
• Israel's Electric Car
• Tapes: NFL, CIA
• Behind The Curtain
• Schmoozing Terrorists
• Jews Of Sicily
• Letters to the Editor

Media Watchpost
• Savage Attack

Networking Central

• Bernstein Concert
• Fair Game
• Haddonfield Players
• Oliver!
• Young Democrats

Teen Voice

Raising A Mensch
• Why Jewish Camping?

Living Judaism
• Shall This Too Pass?

The Kosher Table
• Holiday Recipes

Free Subscription

Past Issues
2008 JFM


    Email This     About     Subscription     Donate     Contact     Links     Archives  

Nancy (Juliet Klinman) comforts Oliver (Emery Schaffer). (Photo by Zach Kassuto who played Fagin.)

Beth Sholom Players broaden their base.

-- Ben Burrows

A diverse group of players took turns on stage Sunday, February 10, in the Beth Sholom Players production of the Lionel Bart musical, “Oliver!” With cast and crew positions open to the entire Jewish community, three synagogues contributed to the production this year, which performs live at Gratz College, with a full orchestra, under the musical direction of Hazzan David Tilman. The show will open at Gratz College Auditorium on Thursday February 21 at 7:30 p.m., with repeat performances on Saturday, February 23 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, February 24, at 3 p.m.

Producer Harvey Perelman has gone out of his way to attract a wide audience. When you see Ami Profeta tooling around the stage with his computerized wheelchair, and singing with the rest of the chorus to “Food, Glorious Food,” you know that there is much about this performance that is special in ways you may never have expected. When you see the signing interpreters, Brandi Gordon, April Hucla, and Denise Logan, practicing with ASL Master Heather Schmerman, practicing their script as attentively as the actors singing and dancing on stage, you realize once more that the Jewish community is a caring community, and recall the blessings for those who are different from ourselves. (Only the Sunday performance will be sign-interpreted.)

Because this musical presents such a variety of challenges as a play directorial supervision has been divided between choreographer Miriam Giguere, dialog coach Debbie Schrager, and vocal coach Donna Levin. Often enough, all three are busy with different groups of cast members. The enthusiasm of so many participants is evident in their performances, even in rehearsals. Some participants have been involved with these productions for up to seventeen years (Bob Cohen as Mr. Brownlow). Others (Nathan Schatz) performed with his granddaughter (Leah Schatz), while still others (Zach Kassutto as Fagin, Jeff Schaeffer as Dr. Grimwig) performed with their daughters (Maya Kassuto and Emery Schaffer).

"Consider Yourself At Home" with Artful Dodger (Erica Rothman) and Oliver (Emery Schaffer).
(Photo by Zach Kassuto who played Fagin.)

Both the Artful Dodger (Erica Rothman) and Oliver himself (Emery Schaffer) are played by young women in this version of the play. Both carry their roles convincingly, with the high octaves of their part no problem, and the dance numbers of their parts well under control. For Emery, this is her first formal acting experience, and it is an impressive first outing. For Erica, this is the beginning of a career arc, with earlier engagements at “The Acting Center” in Center City. Some others with acting training included Drama Major, Joshua Peck (Bill Sykes), and Juliet Klinman (Nancy).

Full disclosure, I myself played Mr. Bumble in an earlier production of Oliver! twelve years prior, with this same group. It was a pleasure to watch Victor Goldberg, clowning away at a part I knew so well. I was also delighted to touch base with veteran costume designers Ginny Wexler and Holly Hankin, with prop master Ilene Perelman, with Steve Nussbaum wiring the place for sound, with Tim Kolman (Mr. Sowerberry), Cindy Zimmerman (Widow Corney) and Bob Cohen (Mr. Brownlow), and assistant music director Eric Schnitzer.

Tickets for the show may be purchased by phone from Beth Sholom 215-887-1342, ext 100, or by fax at 215-887-6605. Tickets may also be purchased online.

Did you enjoy this article?

If so,

  • share it with your friends so they do not miss out on this article,
  • subscribe (free), so you do not miss out on the next issue,
  • donate (not quite free but greatly appreciated) to enable us to continue providing this free service.

If not,