The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene stages a star-packed tribute to the legendary singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka at The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, on Tuesday June 12 at 7:30pm. The gala concert -- with performances by the Broadway actor and Israeli singer Dudu Fisher, Jay Black of Jay and the Americans, Klezmatics star Lorin Sklamberg and the actor-singers Eleanor Reissa, Lori Wilner, Robert Abelson, Dani Marcus and Rebecca Garfein, among many others -- celebrates the wide-ranging impact of Yiddish culture on other popular cultures.
The Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel, will introduce Sedaka and the noted Yiddish song-anthologist, Chana Mlotek. In addition, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will be on hand to pay homage to Sedaka on behalf of the singer’s home borough. Medical leader H. Jay Wisnicki is the evening’s third honoree. With music direction by Folksbiene Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek, the boldly original evening recognizes how the vast legacy of Yiddish culture -- spanning centuries, cultures, art forms and geography, and having withstood unimaginable threats to its very existence -- has always, and continues to spawn new work in music, theatre, literature and many other media.
“Thanks to devoted scholars and preservationists like Chana Mlotek, Yiddish still inspires countless artists working in a spectrum of media in direct and even subtle ways,” comments Folksbiene’s Executive Director Bryna Wasserman. “The fact that new work inspired by this legacy is being created by young artists today, is a remarkable development,” she continues. The son of Turkish Jewish immigrants, Neil Sedaka grew up hearing Yiddish in the homes of neighbors and on records in his own home in Brighton Beach. In 2003, he released Brighton Beach Memories, in which he performed an all-Yiddish collection of songs in honor of his wife, Leba, and her mother. In 2004, Sedaka headlined a special benefit concert for Folksbiene at Carnegie Hall, that put a special exclamation point on his devotion to his family’s heritage.
The rock ‘n roll legend, Songwriters Hall of Fame member and 2004 recipient of the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Popular Music, has written countless #1 hits in a career spanning six decades. With her husband Yosl, Chana Mlotek famously preserved Yiddish songs, collecting them in numerous anthologies which continue to serve as a wellspring of source material for countless scholars, musicologists and klezmer musicians. The writer Isaac Bashevis Singer called the couple “the Sherlock Holmes of Yiddish song.” Mlotek has worked at the YIVO Institute in different capacities for over 60 years (she was the first secretary of its founder, Max Weinreich).
Mark Mlotek, Folksbiene’s board president, introduces the leading opthamologist Dr. H. Jay Wisnicki, CEO and Medical Director of Union Square Eye Care, who was previously the head of pediatric opthamology at Beth Israel Hospital. Dr. Wisnicki, a son of Holocaust survivors, is in the vanguard of a new generation of American-born entrepreneurs who are committed to a vibrant future for Yiddish language and culture. Also appearing in the concert will be a 90-voice children’s choir comprised of students from the Congregation Rodolph Sholom in Manhattan, SAR Academy in Riverdale and the Moriah School in Englewood, NJ. The Drama Desk Award-winning National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene, which celebrates its centenary in 2015, is the longest continuously producing Yiddish theatre company in the world, and America’s sole-surviving professional Yiddish theatre.
The company, now in its historic 97th consecutive season, presents plays, concerts, literary events and workshops in English and Yiddish, with English and Russian supertitles accompanying all performances. The company’s mission is to celebrate the Jewish experience through the performing arts and to transmit a rich cultural legacy in exciting, new ways. For gala tickets, which range from $50 to $500, please visit www.nationalyiddishtheatre.org, or call the National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene at (212)213-2120.