- CHARITY BENEFIT
by: Sandi Durell
The 2012 Benefit Gala held at The Town Hall on June 12th honored Neil Sedaka, Chana Mlotek and H. Jay Wisnicki, MD with performances by an all-star cast. Folksbienne works to continue the music and traditions of Yiddish Theatre so that future generations are not cheated out of their heritage.
The evening opened with Broadway star Dudu Fisher performing, in Yiddish, “Where’s My Lucky Hat?” followed by Tony nominated Eleanor Reissa singing “Yossel.” The jam-packed house clapped and cheered when the first honoree, Dr. Wisnicki, a multi-talented man, sat down at the piano and played accompanied by his 93-year old father on mandolin.
A large screen translated the Yiddish into English and Russian and was also used to show some terrific video clips throughout the evening.
There were performances by a talented quartet of singers including Avi Hoffman, Lori Wilner and Cantor Abelson along with Ms. Reissa performing selections from “On Second Avenue” and “Those Were The Days.” Next up was Broadway Tony winner Mandy Patinkin who, for a very nervous person (as he related), said it was Joe Papp who inspired him to sing Yiddish songs which he did with great emotional gusto. He was also thrilled to be in the presence of Elie Wiesel who presented and received a standing ovation as did Chana Mlotec for her years in the continuation of finding, translating and publishing Yiddish songs, many that were never written down.
Next on the roster was the famous Jay Black who had about 25 hits in the 60s including “Cara Mia” which he sang with some amazing high falsetto notes.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was on hand to present the Brooklyn Bridge, to Neil Sedaka but not before we were treated to a video montage of his greatest hits and the celebs who sang them thru the years. Neil is a Brooklyn boy, who graduated Lincoln High School (as I did), and will soon be celebrating 50 years of marriage to his wife Leiba. One could not hope for a more gracious talent to grace the stage, as he sat down at the piano and sang “One More Ride on the Merry-go-Round,” a poignant look back at life. From his Yiddish Brighton Beach roots and memories, he sang “My Yiddishe Mama” in a plaintive emotional cry, and proceeded to play for the chorus of children from various schools and congregations as they all sang “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.”
The orchestra was conducted by Zalmen Mlotek
Folksbienne is in the process of furthering Yiddish culture with the 2015 Chana Mlotec Kulturfest, a international festival of Jewish Performing Arts, which will reinterpret Yiddish theatre, literature, music, film and art and coincide with the Folksbienne’s 100th Anniversary. www.nationalyiddishtheatre.org
Photos: Stephen Sorokoff