Most helpful positive review
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Loving And Incredibly Entertaining Multi-Media Tribute To A Couple Of Theater Legends
on April 19, 2012
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. They are supported by terrific vocal performances by Eugene Brancoveanu and Ronit Widmann-Levy. Songs throughout are performed in both Yiddish and English. Tilson Thomas has a light touch as the emcee (and also gets a musical interlude), the orchestra is great, and the show also feature pictures and clips of the actual Thomashevskys.
If you are a fan of the Thomashevskys or are particularly interested in Yiddish theater, this makes an easy recommendation. But its appeal shouldn't be limited to just these groups. I love theater and so I loved this excellent staging. And if I learned a bit in the process of being entertained, so be it! Worse things have happened. The DVD presentation is enhanced by an informative 16 page booklet insert about the Thomashevskys while the Bonus Footage includes extended orchestrations, information about the New World Theater, and personal contributions from Tilson Thomas. The presentation is in English and Yiddish with English subtitles available. This one caught me by surprise. I didn't think I wanted to see it, but I was wrong! KGHarris, 4/12.