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Michael Tilson Thomas: The Thomashefskys (2011)

Michael Tilson Thomas , Patrica Birch , Gary Halvorson  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Michael Tilson Thomas: The Thomashefskys + Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
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Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Tilson Thomas
  • Directors: Patrica Birch, Gary Halvorson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: April 24, 2012
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006J6CDG8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,395 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

"My grandparents became mega-stars," Michael Tilson Thomas remembers, "and found themselves smack in the public eye. Legions of crazed fans were obsessed with every detail of their work and their lives. It was a far cry from the simple Jewish family life in the Ukrainian villages of their origin." In THE THOMASHEFSKYS, Tilson Thomas explores the lives of his grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, through a musical performance that features five performers and the New World Symphony orchestra.

Founding members of the Yiddish Theatre in America, the Thomashefskys owned theatres, published their own magazine, wrote columns in the popular Yiddish newspapers, sponsored and encouraged generations of young artists, brought countless Yiddish artists to America, tirelessly raised funds for progressive social causes and, through it all, were adventurous trendsetters. This story, reclaimed by Thomashefsky Project, presents a musical sound that few have heard, assimilating Eastern European klezmer and cantorial modes with American tones and rhythms. Over time, as the Jewish American music theater writers became absorbed in their new surroundings, they greatly influenced the American Songbook. All of this and more are captured in this stunning performance.

Special Features:

  • Collectible, illustrated 16-page booklet
  • Full-length versions of Rumshinsky's Overture to Khantshe in Amerike
  • Overture and "Babkelekh" from Goldfaden's Koldunye
  • The Minke on the Telephone Monologue from Minke di dinstmoyd
  • The Construction of New World Center
  • The New World Symphony Story
  • Michael Tilson Thomas on the Thomashefskys

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
While I love theater in general, I had no particular connection to Yiddish theater history and had only a passing familiarity with the Thomashefsky name. Truthfully, I didn't really know whether or not I'd be interested in Michael Tilson Thomas' multimedia tribute to the legacy of his grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashevsky. Well, not only was I fascinated by their engaging story, I was absolutely charmed by this first rate production. Filmed from a live performance at the New World Center in Miami (complete with the New World Orchestra), this rich piece of loving commemoration includes lush music, fantastic singing, astute comedic performances, an entertaining narration, and plenty of supplementary visual material. It is a stage show that is somewhat hard to describe as it seems both straightforward in presentation while structurally succeeding on a number of different levels. This personal history is accessible and fun despite its serious moments, and Tilson Thomas brings the measured approach of a real showman in telling the tale of Boris and Bessie.

Tilson Thomas serves as both the principle narrator and the orchestra conductor for this homage to the "Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater." While relating personal stories can be dull, Tilson Thomas and company put on a show worthy of the Thomashefskys. Around his anecdotes, actors and singers stage significant parts of the journey. Judy Blazer is quite appealing as Bessie and Shuler Hensley (who I last saw as the monster in Broadway's Young Frankenstein) is charming, but purposefully blustery, as Boris. As the two come together and really give birth to the Yiddish Theater in America, the presentation is interesting from a factual standpoint but complete entertainment as well.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joyous event of music, theatre and family stories! March 31, 2012
I enjoyed this folkloric telling of Michael Tilson Thomas's grandparents. In his intro, MTT talks of all the different sources that were used to put this story together and I love the parts he would tell us was from the family at dinners or in daily life events. The setting is equally intimate - two large chairs, a rug and side tables with a lamp for each of them (one for each grandparent), MTT's use of actual photos of the time (shades of Ken Burns and a slide show) with MTT talking to us (because the intimacy has moved us away from audience to guests hearing a family story) about what happened next to whom.

Now the music - the history of the Yiddish theatre and hearing the music -as a lover of musicals, operettas, some opera and classical (as well as other music), I could hear and see what influences are in the genre today. As I listen to the music, I could hear elements of Jerry Herman, Gershwin's use of solo instruments giving the feeling of being alone and individual before the crowd of instruments pour into the music, and Fiddler on the Roof even Hello Dolly! had an aura that reminded me of MTT's grandmother. Of course Yentil, Funny Girl and Funny Lady and elements of Albert Nodds are stories his grandmother was a part of first with the help of his grandfather producing and often writing her in.

Even politically hearing her song of a woman president and women's rights was a joy and these lyrics are a strong reminder for me in this political year of 2012.

MTT has invited all of us to this - please as you get your invite, drop by and bring the leftovers home or in this case get the DVD and enjoy it again and again.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Unless you are Jewish, you will probably know little of Jewish theatre other than the fact that it deeply influenced the birth of Broadway...yet it was an essential part of Yiddish culture in the urban enclaves of America and Eastern Europe at the turn of the century. Michael Tilson Thomas obviously 'adores" his grandparents who were stars of the stage and lovingly recreates their romance and their world in this program of Great Performances.

It is is is entertaining. But I can't quite give it 5 stars because the two performers whom he selected to play his grandparents just don't have "that" special something that make performances mesmerizing. Actually, the deep, melodic voice of Boris Thomashefsky can be heard in the CD "Memories of Yiddish Theater." And for more great music of this genre, pick anything with Molly Picon, try the CD of "Bruce Adler An Evening at the Yiddish Theatre", or get the marvelous CD of "Theodore Bikel Treasury of Yiddish Theatre & Folk Songs".

Jewish theater is a fascinating subject. My favorite books on the topic are "Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater" [which depicts the extraordinary attention to the staging of these plays - including Shakespeare in Yiddish] and the autobiography of the stage star Herman Yablokoff titled "Der Payatz". One thing is certain, Boris Thomashefsky and his Yiddish Theatrical Alliance bought a large graveplot so that all the New York Yiddish theatre greats could rest in peace...together.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PBS at its finest January 13, 2014
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I loved it when it first was on PBS. Loved it on DVD. My only complaint is that subtitles would have been nice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blazeriffic! March 21, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Having been a student and 'tea time friend' of Miss Stella Adler in the early 1980's, I fear that she may now be turning over in her grave...perhaps just once or twice?....over this mildly self indulgent depiction of the Thomashefskys as the God and Goddess of the Yiddish theater. Now, having said that, the piece is also very educational, both to theatergoers and those interested in the history of America. So I feel its an important show. However, first and foremost, I must applaud Mr. Tilson Thomas on his casting Judy Blazer as Bessie. Blazer has a very solid record of decades of Broadway theater and yet very little has been preserved in video. Up until NOW, that is! Blazer is, in a nutshell, what musical theater is all about and if you buy this video for no other reason than experiencing her performance, you have spent every last penny EXTREMELY wisely.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the music and the story
Saw this on public television and had to have a copy. Loved the music and the story.
Published 1 month ago by twinnie
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thomashefskys
A masterpiece! So professionally done. So enlightening. So educational. The music was magnificent. The Tomashefsky's would be proud of their grandson, Michael Tilson Thomas!
Published 10 months ago by Sally
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!
What a great history of the Yiddish Theater and the Thomashefskys. The music is fantastic. Buy this if you like the Yiddish theater and it's music. You won't be disappointed.
Published 12 months ago by Ronald Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and overdue
A loving and incredibly entertaining tribute by Thomas to his legendary grandparents. The outstanding cast of Broadway and grand opera stars -- and of course the full orchestra --... Read more
Published 14 months ago by johnkenrick
5.0 out of 5 stars A true delight
Great Music and fond memories from start to finish. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a delightful experience.
Published 14 months ago by user's wife
5.0 out of 5 stars Review by 74 year old Jewish woman
MTilsonThomas delivers a very personal memoir of his grandmother, and a historical review of his grandfather's life as he traces their lives through Yiddish Theater. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Harvey I Hurwitz
2.0 out of 5 stars Defective DVD sent
Very interesting documentary & description of the Yiddish theatre. However, unfortunately the DVD was defective so I never saw the second part.
Published 17 months ago by E. B. Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars A Loving And Incredibly Entertaining Multi-Media Tribute To A Couple...
While I love theater in general, I had no particular connection to Yiddish theater history and had only a passing familiarity with the Thomashefsky name. Read more
Published 17 months ago by K. Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories that make you smile
I mentioned this to my daughter's mother-in-law and she immediately started to tell me all about it - as a child, her parents had gone to the theatre and she knew all about this... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Jean C. Esposito
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thomashefskys
A great production, very entertaining and humorous. Have viewed it over and over again. The best Yiddish theatre production we have ever seen.
Published on June 2, 2012 by Jack shapiro
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