It feels like a bar mitzvah! A wedding!” proclaimed actor, performer Mike Burstyn, emcee at the June 10 National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene Gala Concert which honored Morris Offit, chairman, Offit Capital, award presenter to Offit, NBC Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw; and stage and screen great Joel Grey, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Also honored was Folksbiene veteran I.W. “Itzy”Firestone.
Among the 900-strong packed house at N.Y.U.’s Skirball Center were Austria’s Consul General Ernst Peter Brezovszky, Israel’s consul general Ido Aharoni, and British singing star of 1964 hit “Downtown,” Petula Clark. The hot, hip and heymish revue was launched with a video montage of David Hyde Pierce, and Eric Idle singing “…you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have Jews!” from Idle’s Broadway hit “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” Burstyn’s first salvo was “You’ve got to Have a Little Mazel” sung in five languages — Yiddish, Hebrew, English, French and Spanish, with a heel-stomping Burstyn explaining that “flamenco was invented by a man during the Inquisition stamping out cockroaches in his cell.”
The over-the-top lineup Included Judy Blazer channeling Yiddish Theatre turn-of-the century legend Bessie Thomashefsky’s signature song “Hentschke;” Joanne Borts and Rachel Yucht replicating the Barry Sisters’ Yiddish version [songwriter Jack Lawrence ne Jacob Louis Schwartz’s] “Yes, My Darling Daughter;” Eleanor Reissa in a savory version of (Isidore Lillian) “Gefilte Fish,” and to a roaring response, Elmore James, singing “Old Man River” in Yiddish: “Do arbet men oyf der Mississippi.”
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