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BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

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It isn't about Synagogue, but it sure is spiritual.

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

For a person who already knows the Deborah Zecher story, the (ingenious) name of her latest cabaret, JEWISH CAROLING, might suggest that the Rabbi is doing a club act centered around Judaism and the December holidays. If, though, a layperson looking at the Don't Tell Mama website were to see the (again, ingenious) name of the show, it might raise some questions: is there such a thing as Jewish carols, like Christmas carols? And, if so, why isn't this a fact more widely known? Is this a show anybody can go see or will the musical material only be germane to members of the Jewish faith? Questions abound for those not in the know (or for those who might, immediately, know what Jewish Caroling is about).

There are, indeed, Jewish Carols and they do come with a certain amount of faith and spirituality, but no special classes through any religious organization will be required, for the Jewish Carols are Carole Bayer Sager, Carole King, and Carolyn Leigh... and they are all Jewish. (See? Ingenious.)

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING With her brand-new nightclub act, Deborah Zecher has created a wonderful tribute show to three different women who left their stamp (if not a changed nature) on the music industry, each woman Jewish, each one a songwriter, two of them singers. It's a clever concept, one executed quite successfully - most of that success due to Deborah's onstage performance. This isn't to diminish the efforts of Zecher's must-respected director, Lennie Watts, or her revered musical director, Tracy Stark, both of whom have made their presence felt in the seventy-minute show: it's just that Deborah Zecher is SO doggone likable! It would be nice to say that a person can't be a rabbi without being likable but surely everyone has encountered at least one religious leader in their life that wasn't likable. Well, whether acting in a show business or a spiritual capacity Deborah Zecher is likable (though one suspects that every minute of her day is informed by a spiritual capacity).

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING Tribute shows are a tough proposition. If an actor isn't careful, they can end up sounding like a history lesson during a course at the music department of the local university, droning on with factoids to which they have absolutely no connection and for which they feel absolutely no passion. So passion dies, and the show with it. Ms. Zecher took to her drafting table and created a script that overflows with enthusiasm and passion, not only for the women but for the work, and the legacy left behind (to be fair, Sager and King are still living, so they haven't left behind their legacy yet, although they are impressive legacies). A complete script in hand, Deborah did her audience the favor of memorizing that script so that she could just talk to her congregation. Deborah Zecher remains connected to the crowd for her entire program, whether speaking (seemingly extemporaneously but, clearly, from facts that are in her muscle) or singing, and it is that connection that makes Jewish Caroling the experience that it is. Oh, the music is certainly enjoyable (with Matt Scharfglass on bass and David Silliman on drums, and Stark on piano, there is no going wrong), as Deborah infuses the work of the three Carols with her straightforward, unpretentious alto (and some occasional GORGEOUS baritone notes that she and Stark should, further, work into her skillset). And the script is incredibly clever, as Zecher avoids doing a segment on Leigh, a section on Sager, and a chapter on King, opting instead to weave the women's stories and music together as a sisterhood of inspiration. Using the foundation built upon her script and her curated score, Deborah is secure enough to get up on the stage and throw out the script, allowing herself to sort of body surf through the proceedings with the structure of intensive rehearsals and the freedom of confidence, and that is where her connection to both the audience and the material gets its strength.

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING There is also a great deal of strength in community, and for this spiritual leader of the synagogue and stage, Sunday's performance was awash with community, as the full house at Don't Tell Mama's Brick Room was more than a Who's Who of cabaret, it was akin to a college reunion. Goldie Dver. Becca Kidwell. Meg Flather. Karen Mack. Lisa Viggiano. Mary Lahti. Ari Axelrod. Bob Diamond. Sidney Myer. Lennie Watts. These are just some of the recognizable faces from the cabaret and concert industry that could be seen around the room, grinning the grins of the nourished, and weeping the tears of the touched, as Deborah worked her way through significant but playful compositions like "Nobody Does It Better" or "When In Rome" and meaningful works of art like "The Prayer", which Zecher and Stark brilliantly infused with some spiritual but not religious music in a moment that left nearly every person present sobbing (including a well documented devout atheist, who held out crying until Stark joined in on harmony). It was more than an impressive cabaret performance, it was an important one, and hopefully Zecher's future shows will be imbued with the same energy, one assisted by an audience of cabaret singers so comfortable with Zecher and her goodwill that they felt no hesitation in joining in as back-up harmonies, doo-wops, and supportive chorus during the highlight of the evening, a raucous and rewarding medley of every single song from the album Tapestry, probably the best album ever recorded in the history of music. Usually, a cabaret production during which the audience sings along might be an unwelcome bit of distraction, but with Deborah Zecher at the pulpit and the likes of Mack & Viggiano and Flather & Kidwell in the pews, those harmonies and backup vocals were rendered a heavenly choir.

And Deborah Zecher deserves one of those because she, like her new show, is divine.

Jewish Caroling has a performance on December 8th at 7 pm. For information and tickets visit the Don't Tell Mama website HERE.

HERE is the Deborah Zecher website.

Deborah Zecher gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing her entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING BWW Review: Deborah Zecher Takes Don't Tell Mama Crowd to Schul with JEWISH CAROLING

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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