A Gilmore Girls Revival, Philip Glass’s “Ankhaten,” And 7 Other Things To Read, Watch, And Do This Weekend
On the brink of Thanksgiving, your mind is likely on the holiday – its pleasures and stresses alike – but find some time this week to indulge in great new reads, the long-heralded return of Amy Sherman Palladino’s “Gilmore Girls,” and, if you can drag yourself off your couch, concerts and plays in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.
1) Be wowed by Philip Glass and Stephen Sondheim masterpieces
In Los Angeles, LA Opera’s production of Glass’s “Akhnaten” closes this Sunday. Lauded by the Los Angeles Times as “the first major American ‘Akhnaten’ in more than a quarter-century,” and met with some protests over its casting of a white man as the titular Egyptian pharaoh, the staging is sure to intrigue. Also in L.A., following last week’s release of a new documentary on Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” catch the show itself at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The production, which opened this week, will play through December 18th.
2) Check out new nonfiction on Jewish luminaries, from Moses to Jon Stewart
This week brings three intriguing nonfiction releases. Chris Smith’s “The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests,” a preview of which was recently spotlighted by this column, provides humorous insight into Stewart’s reshaping of late-night comedy. Susan Rubin Suleiman’s “The Némirovsky Question: The Life, Death, and Legacy of a Jewish Writer in Twentieth-Century France” dives into the history of the French Jewish writer Irène Némirovsky, killed during the Holocaust, whose posthumously-published “Suite Française” became a controversial bestseller. And Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg’s “Moses: A Human Life,” the latest installment of Yale University Press’s “Jewish Lives” series, draws an intimate portrait of a biblical legend.
3) Grab a cup of coffee – or 12 – and curl up with the “Gilmore Girls” revival
Amy Sherman Palladino’s well-loved “Gilmore Girls,” which she once called “The Jew-iest goyim show on television,” gets a long-anticipated update this Friday with the Netflix reboot “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.” Curl up with coffee, enough junk food to make you sick for a week, and binge the show, watching out for a reprise of such classic lines as “oy, with the poodles already!” Hey – it’s the Gilmore way.
4) Get cheesy with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
No, the “Elf on the Shelf” balloon is not getting a “Mensch on a Bench” companion this year. (A girl can dream.) Still, with performers like Regina Spektor and the almost-Jewish Tony Bennett – ok, it’s a stretch, but dudes, it’s Tony Bennett – on the roster, the shticky celebration, which airs Thursday at 9 am in every time zone, is worth at least a passing glance.
5) Follow the Jewish take on the “Hamilton”-Mike Pence drama
As is now popular lore, last weekend Vice President-elect Mike Pence paid a visit to the Broadway production of “Hamilton,” the cast of which concluded the performance with a speech about the inclusive American vision they hoped Pence, in office, would protect. President-elect Donald Trump reacted angrily on Twitter, demanding the cast apologize and causing a media firestorm. The Forward’s Adam Langer responded by speculating about how the episode might have played out differently had it happened at “Fiddler on the Roof,” not “Hamilton,” and the New Yorker’s Michael Schulman issued some further musical theater recommendations for Pence. Among them were that same “Fiddler” – “A musical about members of a despised minority who are forced to leave their homes after being targeted by violent hate groups under a repressive czar. A heart-warmer!” Schulman wrote – and the very-Jewish “Falsettos.” Last Saturday also brought an outburst by a Trump supporter at the Chicago production of “Hamilton;” that musical may have even greater contemporary political relevance now than when it premiered.
6) Catch a Tony Award-winning Arthur Miller revival
Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s revival of Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” astonished audiences in London and New York, winning Tony Awards for best revival of a play and best direction of a play. Washington D.C. audiences now have a chance to see the production, running at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts through December 3rd. The Forward’s Jesse Oxfeld called the staging “an intense, unsettling, and deeply original evening of theater;” don’t miss out on the chance to see if you agree.
7) Kick back with klezmer
Also in D.C., attend a klezmer brunch on Sunday at the Edlavitch DCJCC featuring Seth Kibel. That same day, Chicagoans can catch Rabbi Joe Black and the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band at the Old Town School of Folk Music for the Hanukkah-themed performance “Eight Nights of Joy.” Both performances promise to be foot-tapping fabulous close-outs to the holiday weekend.
8) Read Michael Chabon’s new novel “Moonglow”
Chabon, best known for “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” is a talented storyteller with a famously enormous vocabulary. That vocabulary is on restrained display in his new novel “Moonglow,” which is notably quieter than his previous works, but no less engaging. A novel disguised as a memoir –Chabon, in the book’s acknowledgments, calls it “a pack of lies” – “Moonglow” prances between the most darkly thrilling episodes of the twentieth century, from the ruins of Germany at the tail end of World War II to the space race. At its heart, though, the book is a emotionally complex exploration of the relationships that made its protagonist’s life, simultaneously rich and muted.
9) Wax nostalgic about Coney Island
This Sunday, join the Brooklyn Brainery and New York Local Tours for a walking tour of Coney Island. While you wait to indulge in the New York of yore, put your rose-colored glasses on early by revisiting Ezra Glinter’s gorgeous 2015 essay for the Forward “The Life and Death and Life of Coney Island.”
Marilyn Monroe has been dead 50 years, but she continues to fascinate.
Classified files released by the FBI in response to a request by the Associated Press reveal claims that the actress’s Jewish marriage ceremony was “a cover up.”
Monroe married Jewish playwright Arthur Miller in June 1956, but a redacted FBI document quotes an anonymous source that informed the New York Daily News that their religious ceremony was a “cover up”—presumably for Monroe and Miller’s alleged Communist activities. Miller “was still a member of the CP (communist party) and was their cultural front man,” the source was quoted as saying. The source also alleges that Monroe was drifting into the Communist Party orbit, and her production company was filled with Communists and funneling money to the party.
Parts of the FBI’s files on Monroe, dating back to 1955 and continuing on through investigations of her 1962 suicide, can be seen on the FBI’s The Vault website, which posts the agency’s records on celebrities, government officials, spies and criminals.
Zach Braff, in England right now for the premiere run of “All New People” (his London stage debut — plus, he wrote the play) is surely enjoying the present moment. But it turns out that his past — at least his family’s past — has something to do with another play: “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller.
It seems that the Jewish Braff is related to the Mormon Presidential candidate Mitt Romney…by way of a Puritan Protestant. That Protestant is Rebecca Nurse, who was falsely accused of practicing witchcraft in the infamous Salem witchcraft trials. She was hanged in 1692. Miller made Nurse a central character in his play about the trials.
In Frank Loesser’s beloved 1961 musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”, a new production of which starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe opens at Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theatre on March 27 (previews start February 26), J. Pierrepont Finch (Radcliffe) is portrayed as an inexorably rising businessman. His name alludes to the turn-of-the-century capitalist and Episcopalian, J. Pierpont Morgan, whose presence in 20th century American Jewish culture includes appearance or evocations in E. L. Doctorow’s novel and subsequent Broadway musical Ragtime; Charles Strouse’s musical “Annie,” Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! (in the song “Elegance”); and even Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. But how Jewish is J. Pierrepont Finch and his world?
Finch, a window-washer who schmoozes his way amazingly quickly to being chairman of the board, is often casually compared to Sammy Glick from the Broadway musical What Makes Sammy Run? adapted from Budd Schulberg’s 1941 novel. Yet Sammy Glick is a lethally ambitious, double-dealing bluffer who “runs people down” so somberly that some readers saw him as an anti-Semitic stereotype, to which Schulberg could only reply that Sammy’s victims were Jews, too. By comparison, Finch is a gracefully sunny caricature (entirely appropriate for a theater named after Hirschfeld), thanks to the genius of writer and director Abe Burrows (born Abram Solman Borowitz), who directed “Sammy” in its Broadway debut in 1964, when “How to Succeed,” for which Burrows wrote the book and directed as well, was still running.
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