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Interview: DAN SKLAR of FALSETTOLAND at Music Theatre Of Connecticut

From theatre to pulpit to theatre again. Father-son duo shines in FALSETTOLAND.

Talk about being a triple threat talent. Usually, it's acting, singing, and dancing. But for Connecticut's Dan Sklar, it's being a rabbi, cantor, and musical theatre performer.

Sklar was always drawn to musical theatre. At Oberlin College, he studied voice under Richard Miller, who gave him an ultimatum. Either study in their opera program or go solo into musical theatre. He chose the latter but graduated with a degree in electronic music.

He worked as a secretary for Broadway legend Hal Prince at the time Prince was "at the top of his game" with Showboat, Phantom of The Opera, and Kiss of The Spiderman playing simultaneously. Working for Prince meant being in the hub of "amazing things" and among people who were successful in one of the most competitive fields.

Then he got a break with Disney's Beauty and the Beast national tour. He toured for almost three years doing 1,000 shows as Gaston's sidekick, LeFou. He befriended young composers including Jason Robert Brown, Andrew Lippa (who began his professional career at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam), and Justin Paul, who was his mother-in-law's student at Staples High School in Westport. Staples has a well-regarded student theatre program.

Which brings us to the show in which Sklar is appearing - Falsettoland, the third Marvin trilogy of musicals created by William Finn. It's being staged by Music Theatre of Connecticut. By coincidence, in 1994 the Staples Players staged a student production of Falsettoland, which featured friends of Shira Lipson, whom he would later marry.

Once Sklar finished his tour of Beauty and the Beast, he got "Jewish singing jobs" such as backing up renowned cantors in "Cantors World" concerts at Lincoln Center and leading services in synagogues. His theatrical career took an unexpected but fulfilling detour. He enrolled in the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He met Shira there, who was studying to be a cantor. Both ended up getting ordained as rabbis and cantors. His father-in-law is the highly respected Norwalk Rabbi Mark Lipson, who is also well-known as a Jewish composer.

Fast forward to 2021. Sklar's oldest son, Ari, was auditioning for the role of Jason in Falsettoland. Unbeknownst to him, Sklar "snuck in the audition after Ari." Ari was initially "mortified" but soon welcomed the idea of working with his father. Shira is "over the moon" about the two of them performing together.

As a Jewish clergyman, Sklar adds a lot to the part of Marvin, especially in regard to his son's coming of age. He even took the liberty of changing a few words in the bar mitzvah scene to make the words more authentic. William Finn, the composer, lyricist, and writer of the Marvin trilogy, is Jewish. He wrote his first play in Hebrew, but he admits that he couldn't really speak Hebrew, so the play couldn't have been good. For this production of Falsettoland, Sklar "took three very targeted phrases of Hebrew and grafted it" to the book. The liturgy will be authentic, as like Jason, Ari is preparing for his real-life bar mitzvah next June.

Sklar notes that although Falsettoland was written at a time when "everyone was nervous and afraid" and "there was fear and panic" over AIDS. He believes that "there is so much resonance today" because of the COVID pandemic. Disease can affect anyone and there were so many people who died of it. "No one is alone," he notes. Falsettoland is "about family, acceptance, authenticity, and finding yourself."

In addition to his work on stage and on the pulpit, Sklar is the author of Sh*tshow: A Memoir and 2020 Mixtape: The Tales of a Reluctant Rabbi, which is available on Amazon.

Sklar is not the first Jewish clergyman to work in the performing arts. There's Jackie Mason, who was ordained as a cantor and rabbi before making a name for himself as a comedian. Former Greenwich Rabbi Hillel Silverman, father of actor Jonathan Silverman, appeared in one of his son's movies. Rabbi Mark Golub of Chavurah Aytz Chayim in Stamford, founded the first Russian language television station in the United States and the television channel Shalom TV, now known as the Jewish Broadcasting Service.

Falsettoland will play at Music Theatre of Connecticut MainStage from November 5 to 21. Previews are Friday, November 5 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, November 6 at 2:00, with opening night on Saturday at 8:00. There are Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Pride Night, in partnership with the New Haven Pride Center, is November 12 at 8:00 p.m. All performances are in person, but proof of COVID vaccination is required. Ticket prices range from $40.00 to $65.00. (Per ticket service fee is not included.) Music Theatre of Connecticut is located at 509 Westport Avenue (Route 1) in Norwalk. For tickets and more information, call (203) 454-3883 or visit

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