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May 15: The Yiddish Fred Astaire

Actor and dancer Leo Fuchs, lifelong star of the Yiddish theater, creator of the famous song “Trouble,” and a star in the original Broadway production of Cabaret, was born to a theatrical family in Warsaw on this date in 1911. “Fuchs’s specialty,” writes Bernard Mendelovitch in The Independent, “was comedy and when he commenced his […]

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In Memoriam: Theodore Bikel

May 2, 1924 — July 21, 2015 by Bennett Muraskin From the Spring 2016 issue of Jewish Currents THERE ARE FEW contemporary Jews who have been more steeped in the tradition of progressive yiddishkayt than Theodore Bikel. He grew up in Vienna, but after Nazi Germany took over the country in 1938, his family emigrated […]

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April 14: Bye Bye Birdie

The stage musical Bye Bye Birdie, created by the all-Jewish team of Michael Stewart (book), Lee Adams (lyrics), and Charlie Strouse (music), opened on Broadway on this date in 1960. Inspired by the real-life induction of Elvis Presley into the army in 1958, Bye Bye Birdie won a Tony Award and spawned a London production […]

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April 11: The Master of Ceremonies

Joel Grey (Joel David Katz), who danced and sang to international stardom as the Master of Ceremonies in the 1966 Broadway production of Cabaret, was born to a show-biz family — his father was the “novelty song” musician Mickey Katz — in Cleveland on this date in 1932. Grey has won the Academy Award, the […]

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March 25: The Shuberts of Broadway

Lee (Levi) Shubert, the eldest of the three Shubert brothers who established Broadway as the center of theater in the U.S. and built the country’s largest theater chain, was born in Lithuania on this date in 1871. When they set out in theater, a powerful group called the Theatrical Syndicate had a lock on New […]

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March 21: Empress of Dance

Estelle Sommers, co-owner of Capezio Ballet Makers and a major supporter of contemporary dance, died at 74 on this date in 1994. Sommers took ballet and tap classes in her youth and was ardently devoted to the art. She transformed her first husband’s Cincinnati fabric store into a dancewear specialty shop, then married Ben Sommers, […]

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The Subversive Power of Jewish Humor

by George Jochnowitz Discussed in this essay: Kvetching and Shpritzing: Jewish Humor in American Popular Culture, by Joseph Dorinson, foreword by Joseph Boskin. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015, 248 pages. WHEN I FIRST saw the title of Joseph Dorinson’s book, I was a bit puzzled. I know that Yiddish kvetshn means “to squeeze” and can […]

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December 31: Jule Styne, Time After Time

Jule Styne (Julius Stein), whose songwriting collaborations with Sammy Kahn (as well as Stephen Sondheim, Bob Merrill, and Betty Comden and Adolph Green, among others) yielded the scores for such hit Broadway shows as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bells Are Ringing, Gypsy, and Funny Girl, was born in London on this date in 1905. Styne was a […]

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December 3: Madeline Kahn

Actress Madeline Kahn (Wolfson), best know for her comedic roles in a series of Mel Brooks films, including What’s Up, Doc? (1972), Young Frankenstein (1974), Blazing Saddles (1974), High Anxiety (1977), and History of the World, Part I (1981), died at 57 on this date in 1999. Kahn, who acted in over forty films, was […]

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September 3: Kitty Carlisle

Actress, musician, and arts advocate Kitty Carlisle was born in New Orleans (where her grandfather had been mayor of Shreveport) on this date in 1910. Best known to America as a  panelist on the game show To Tell the Truth from 1956 to 1978, she also appeared on Broadway and in films, including with the […]

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