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BWW Review: The Musical Theater Project and Jewish Federation put the spotlight on Israeli's 70thanniversary with “Milk and Honey”

BWW Review: The Musical Theater Project and Jewish Federation put the spotlight on Israeli's 70thanniversary with “Milk and Honey”

Many know Cantor Kathy Wolfe Sebo as a superlative cantor. Few know, however, that she didn't start out to make the religious life her career.

Sebo, a "University Heights girl" (Belvoir and Wiley before going to Hathaway Brown), graduated from the Cincinnati's Conservatory of Music with a major in Voice Performance. Her goal was "to become a star!"

How did she wind up at The Temple-Tifereth Israel? As Sebo states, "I tripped into it. It was definitely not on the radar."

After a loss in the family, and the desire to come "home," she was asked to do some cantorial work. After marriage, children, and a fourteen years as being one of the first female cantors in the Conservative movement, she was offered her present job where she has served for the last 19 years. Thirty-three years later, "Cantor Kathy," she is!

She still has her heart in musical theatre and, she will soon again be treading the boards, as she will appear on stage with the cast of The Musical Theatre Project's concert presentation of "Milk and Honey." The program is co-sponsored by The Cleveland Israel Arts Connection, a program of The Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

In 1961, "Milk and Honey," Jerry Herman's first Broadway show, premiered. It opened the door for the such Herman hits as "Hello Dolly!," "Mame" and "La Cage aux Follies."

Herman, crafted a show that highlighted the State of Israel, which was only 13 years old at the time. He built the score on the tale of Zionistic zeal, turning the desert into fields of green, and creating the "land of milk and honey." It has a book by Don Appell.

The story centers on a busload of American widows hoping to catch husbands while touring Israel. It is set against the backdrop of the country's struggle for recognition as an independent nation and what it could and should become.

The program will be hosted by Bill Rudman and Nancy Maier, with musical arrangements by Ty Emerson.

Besides Sebo, members of the singing cast are Sheri Gross, Michael Snider, and Greg Violand.

As a child, Sebo's father encouraged her to sing "Milk and Honey" and "Shalom," two of the songs from "Milk and Honey." This lead to her appreciation for the music which she feels is "emotional and has an earthiness to it. The songs are filled with Jewish motifs, has gorgeous writing and, in many ways is "magical." She adds, "It's not just a show for Jews, but all people."

As is true of the arts, the show represents the era from which it comes. "It works best if you realize what Israel was then a land of pioneering drive. It was that attitude that has led to the small country now being a world leader in medicine, rescue operations, draught relief, and is a light onto nations."

Sebo, a proud former Singing Angel, has great enthusiasm for the project. She is finding the experience "exciting," and feels "privileged." "Watching Bill, Nancy, Ty, the orchestra and the cast is like sitting in on a master class."

The one-time-only concert will be held at Cuyahoga Community College's Eastern Campus on Sunday, May 6 at 3 PM. General admission tickets are $35 and are available by calling 1-800-838-3006. For more information about the program or to reserve group tickets, call 216-245-8687 or email

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From This Author Roy Berko