Wednesday, May 22, 2013
As a kid from New York, you could say I grew up in the wings of the Broadway stage. After all, my mother took me to see many a Saturday matinee of Broadway’s best. By the time I was 12 I had seen my fill. “The Sound of Music,” starring Mary Martin, “My Fair Lady” with Julie Andrews, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” with Robert Morse, and “Fiddler on the Roof,” starring the incomparable Zero Mostel, to name just a few.
Sitting in the darkened theatre, waiting for the musical conductor to give his cue to the orchestra to play the first notes of the overture, I felt stirring within me an excitement that could not be contained. The memorable songs, the rousing dancing, and the immediacy of it all, entranced me like no film ever could. Indeed, I was in awe of the Great White Way.
Yet, here’s something I didn’t realize. All these musicals have something in common. The songs were written and composed by Jewish Americans. Brilliant men like Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, Frank Loesser, and Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, who collectively defined an enduring art form and created what has become the modern American musical.
Well, in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, KPBS is presenting tonight at 7 p.m., an online screening of “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy,” which is a presentation of “Great Performances.” You’ll be able to watch the program in its entirety and live chat about it, too.
Oh, and afterward, be sure to check out my profiles on Local Heroes, Yale Strom and Sy Brenner. Strom has made his own significant contribution to music, and is involved in a production opening soon at the La Jolla Playhouse. Brenner has a remarkable story of being taken prisoner by the Nazis during World War II. Their achievements not only add to the tapestry of Jewish American history, they enrich the lives of all who call San Diego home.