Ohev Shalom synagogue in Richboro, Bucks County, usually performs one major production a year, alternating plays and musicals.
Last year, their well-done play was TWELVE ANGRY MEN; then, they added a children’s production later, SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL, so young people could participate.
This year, the big production this week and next is the always-popular family musical, ANNIE. It was produced by Shelley Rosen, Rona Remstein and Barbara Berman.
Michael Schwartz, director of Ohev productions, has a rather awesome challenge: he must choose a cast from synagogue members, select a show which can be performed by members only, and then find the right people to play all the roles, including demanding leads.
Fortunately, Schwartz has many talented people from which to choose. In fact, there were so many participants this year that he double-cast several of the leading roles, including Annie, Miss Hannigan, Rooster, Grace, Mollie, and Kate.
There are times when the stage is so full that the 51 actors listed in the program — some of whom play two roles in this large cast — have difficulty getting to their spots.
Fourteen musicians under the direction of Joel Greengard provide fine live music from the side orchestra pit.
Interestingly, Ken Marblestone plays bass clarinet during the first three scenes, then hurries backstage to make an entrance as the very important and very bald Oliver (Daddy) Warbucks. Marblestone is a multi-talented actor, singer and musician, and a pleasure to watch.
Barbara Berman, a very active member and past president of the Ohev Shalom congregation is very funny as the drunken, unpleasant, miserable Miss Hannigan. She staggers, recovers, reacts and sings appropriately.
This cast demonstrates many levels of acting talents and vocal abilities. It appeared that the young lady who played ANNIE on Sunday evening is not yet totally comfortable in sincerely interacting with others on stage. Phyllis Parkansky’s only prior experience has been in camp shows, but she sings on pitch, comes in on cue, and has a very nice smile. It’s a demanding role for any young person.
Certain performers were stand-outs. Among them are Anita Dorfman as Oliver Warbuck’s secretary, Eric Rothstein as Rooster, Eric Froberg as Bert Healey, Madison Dedieu as a feisty orphan Mollie, Lee Jaffee as Drake, and various roles. The female orphans all did quite well singing and dancing together, as did the boys in the street gang, and the chorus of maids and butlers.
Also fun to watch was Elise Weinstein as Rooster’s girlfriend, Lily St. Regis, and her competent work as choreographer was evident.
As often happens when animals appear on stage, a four-year old golden retriever stole the show as Annie’s adopted dog “Sandy.” He was calm, disciplined, and delightful, appropriate since he also works as a therapy dog, visiting nursing homes and a camp for children with autism, and he competes in agility and obedience trials.
From the long list of names in the program, it appears that several hundred members of the congregation become involved in some manner with this production. It’s no wonder it is the major fund-raiser of the year for Ohev.
In a bit of a twist and to the delight of the audience, there were references to Hanukkah as well as Christmas in the production. At one point, a painting of the Mona Lisa is displayed with a photo of Rabbi Elliot Pearlstein replacing her face….”the ‘Elliot Lisa’” a friend told me with a smile. “We always try to work our Rabbi into the shows somehow, somewhere, just for fun,” he said.
Mention needs to be made of the clever set design and execution, fine lighting by Howard Berman and Mark Kolber on sound. Kudos to all of the production and backstage people, as well.
A sense of strong community abounds at Ohev Shalom, as evidenced by this ebullient, cohesive production. Portable seating can be arranged for 225 to 350+ people.
Book by Thomas Meehan
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Music by Charles Strouse
Directed by Michael Schwartz
Ohev Shalom of Bucks County
944 Second Street Pike
Richboro, PA 18954
Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7 PM
Saturday, Feb 25 at 8 PM
Sunday, Feb. 26 at 12:30 and 5 PM