Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Voices of Eternity" Bais Rivkah Production Review

Last night I went with my daughter to see the Bais Rivkah play "Voices For Eternity". At almost 5 years old and quick as a whip, I knew she would absorb every moment and digest it thoroughly. What I didn't know is how much I would enjoy the show, but lo and behold, an unexpected lump in my throat rose at the first scene where it stayed until the incredible finale.

An out of towner, I spent my high school years in Bais Rivkah Montreal as well as many summers in Camp Emunah in the Catskills and let me tell you, nothing establishes  a student's long-term positive feelings towards an establishment than a supportive staff that encourages the girls creativity and unique contributions in the arts and theater department (phew). I have written scripts, sung and conducted choirs, composed songs, medleys and even choreographed a few dances in my days.The experience is always the same. It starts with an enthusiastic "let's make a show" and ends with an intense, tear inducing, drama-filled (backstage that is) bank-draining, friendship bonding, memory-making experience that culminates in a spiritual and physical high that is the finale (phew again).

Years ago, I worked on a choir for the Bais Rivkah Crown Heights production, a medley of past years' finales. At the time it was a challenge for me to combine all the different songs into one flowing piece and manage the harmony and rhythm changes. But I worked it out (with the help of Chaim Fogelman who created the musical playbacks) and the result was incredible (not to toot my own horn, but that night many claimed it was the highlight of the show). A few girls have even approached me recently to tell me they remember being part of that choir. I can't say I remember the rest of the production but the experience working with the girls was wonderful and made me feel young and exuberant again.

Last night I yearned for that feeling again.

We had 2nd row seats for the 6pm show and came early enough to watch the hall fill rapidly up to it's capacity of 1500 seats. Now keep in mind, the play went on 4 times in the last 4 days. So you do the math. It's not easy to fill every seat in such a large hall 4 times in a row so that in itself proves an awesome point. But more on that later.

I admit I was slightly dreading the drama parts of the play. I love me a good musical, but the acting usually brings out the ADD in me so I was thrilled to discover that the entire play consisted of singing and dancing, song after song, dance after dance. Thanks to the 2 large screens that portrayed the lyrics and filmed scene fillers, the story was clear, easy to follow and thoroughly engaging. Rosa leaves war-ravaged Europe for America and remains conflicted between her parent's traditions and the new world's promises. She takes a job at a sweat-shop where her rigid boss (yay Liba!) refuses her a day off for Shabbos. Through song and dance, she struggles with her faith and ultimately admits to her self that the Frideker Rebbe's words are her final reality: "America is nisht andersh". The sweat-shop burns down and her physical and spiritual life are saved.

The storyline was simple but the lyrics were rich, the dances adorable, the costumes vibrant and creative. Amazingly the entire show was set to Nigunei Chabad and thanks to the incredible patience and talents of Chony Milecki and Benshimon Studios, never stepped over into the cliched territory I disdain so much.

Like every other Chabad peulah, the play had a clear and fundamental lesson for each and every one of us to take away. As the entire school sang together in the finale: "No America is nit andersh, Torah for all times, yes it is through Yiddishkeit that freedom we will find! March the streets with pride, Menorah's light outside, Heads held high, Geon Yaakov..." The girls sang it loud and proud, like they meant it and understood the message perfectly.  And I am sure they did because I felt that proud too.

Granted the choirs and soloists were pre-recorded (a nightmare to orchestrate by the way), the timing was impeccable, not one girl missed her cue, took a misstep or forgot her lines. Now is a good time to mention there were 500 girls in the show. FIVE HUNDRED. I recognized girls from my choir club, babysitters and cousins children, each one beautiful and confident in their role. I cryed, I laughed and I mostly kvelled.

Bais Rivkah you outdid yourself and like I whispered in Hadassa's ear during the show "I am so happy that you are a Bais Rivkah girl, cuz one day you will be up there too!"

Amazing, amazing, amazing!!
Bais Rivkah Montreal Production 1996


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Crown Heights Concert Video Recap

Love how this,

becomes this: