Post image for Cabaret Review: A PLACE FOR US: A CELEBRATION OF JEWISH BROADWAY (Ari Axelrod)

by Paulanne Simmons on October 30, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Theater-New York


Considering how many Jewish musicians have written for Broadway, it must have been difficult for Ari Axelrod to choose the repertoire for his new cabaret show, A Place for Us: A Celebration of Jewish Broadway. Nevertheless, the show represents a wide range of songwriters, from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Jason Robert Brown.

There’s even a very interesting part of the show in which Axelrod discusses Cole Porter, a non-Jewish composer who deliberately wrote songs that sounded Jewish. To prove his point, Axelrod sang Porter’s “So in Love” while the band played fragments of other songs. “’My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ is not even subtle,” he concluded.

“Why were a majority of Broadway shows written by Jews and still are?” Axelrod asks. He gives several answers. The Jews who wrote those musicals were immigrants from Europe. They arrived with no friends and no family, and the theater became their community. They also came from a long tradition of storytelling and musicmaking.

Axelrod is a great showman, and he not only sang gorgeous versions of beautiful songs, he also provided abundant information about the songs he sang and the musicals they came from. After singing “Miracle of Miracles” from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Fiddler on the Roof (1964), he explained that the first musical by Jews about Jews was actually Jerry Herman’s inaugural musical Milk and Honey (1961), and he played Herman’s phone message to him when he opened in an off-Broadway production of the show. Axelrod also recounted the awful, true story behind Jason Robert Brown’s Parade before singing the very moving ballad, ‘This Is Not Over Yet.”

Axelrod’s analysis became truly fascinating when he showed how Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” George and Ira  Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and the whistled prelude to Leonard Bernstein’s “Jet Song” are all taken from Hebrew liturgy.

But the best moments of the evening were those that were most personal. Axelrod revealed that his great uncle, an opera singer in Kiev, was murdered by the Nazis in the middle of a performance. He said he always thinks of him when singing for an audience. For Axelrod, it is import that Jews be more than resilient. Jews need to celebrate, even as they remember their grief.

Axelrod began the evening with the Israeli national anthem “Hatikvah,” which means “hope,” and ended with Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “Somewhere.” Because Jews, like all people, need to know:

There’s a place for us
Somewhere a place for us
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us somewhere

photos of Ari Axelrod taken at Chelsea Table & Stage in November, 2022

A Place for Us: A Celebration of Jewish Broadway
Ari Axelrod
Chelsea Table & Stage, 152 West 26 Street
ends on October 30, 2023
for more info, visit Ari Axelrod

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