This is Yiddish as you haven’t heard it before. This is Yiddish song as you haven’t heard it before. This is Yiddish from yesterday woven and shaped and reworked into the Yiddish of tomorrow. This is Yiddish sung by women’s voices, unique, but complementing each other. This is musical mamaloshen looking to the future.
Yiddish Divas is a show conceived by Evelyn Krape and Karen Feldman. Krape, as Director, has moulded a show that is tight and cohesive. After their ascent onto the stage, the ten performers remain there for the duration of the show, acting and reacting, balancing and supplementing each other’s performance. Krape’s direction ensures that every diva remains a part of the ensemble even while another takes centre stage. Not once did any performer look like she was not part of the action, or just waiting around disconnected. Each piece segues seamlessly into the next, skilfully guided by the hostess, the consummate showwoman, Tomi Kalinski.
In the beginning, the singers are clothed in trench coats and hats. Covered. Concealed. As each gives her song, the coats and hats are shed in turn, to reveal bright red dresses beneath. One colour, but styles diverse, from sexy to modest to party dress to plain. Red: the colour of blood; a colour that stands out, that is obtrusive, that commands attention. Kalinski the narrator wears black – only at the end of the show does she exchange her black hat for a red one to mirror the singers’ attire.
The Divas range in age from 10 to almost 70. Noa Morris Coates, Ines Gotmaker and Anouchka Starr are school students. Karen Feldman, Evie Gawenda, Elisa Gray, Galit Klas, Freydi Mrocki and Rachel Tigel are all experienced performers on both the amateur and professional stage. There is no hierarchy among them though – no single singer when she takes the centre lords it over the others. The younger are afforded as much respect as the older, seasoned performers. It is an ensemble where each performer shines.
The songs are plucked from a span of over 100 years. Tigel delivers a luscious version of the Russian/Yiddish folk song “Di Shvatze Katz” (the black cat). Klas belts out “New York, New York’ in Yiddish, then transforms into the Ghetto child “Yisrolik”. Gotmaker sways to Itsik Feffer’s “Di Krenitse” (The Well) and Starr delights singing “Day-O” in translation. The duet of Feldman and Coates in “Mama meg ikh geyn shpatsirn” (Mama may I go out walking) is a heartfelt dialogue between a mother and daughter and Gawenda’s rendition of “Di Mezinke” (The last daughter married) joyous. Gray’s version of “Ikh vel vartn oyf dir” (I will wait for you) is by turns manic, heart-rending and passionate. Appropriately, Mrocki closes the show with “Mayn hob un guts” (my inheritance).
This was over an hour of diverse Yiddish music with not a single “Oyfn Pripetchik” or “Tumbalalika” to be heard! The accompanying band play music arranged by Musical Director Adam Starr, and the styles borrow from jazz, big band, folk, Broadway and klezmer. In addition, to the four professional musicians, (including Starr brothers, Simon and Adam) and Kalinski who plays the piano as well as narrating, four high school girls join the ensemble for select pieces.
Yiddish Divas played three sell out performances at the Kadimah. The music, the Yiddish, the professionalism and the inclusion and mentoring of younger women all bode well for the future – the Kadimah is going to need a bigger hall.
Written by Ruth Boltman
My mother – everyone’s mother would have loved it- as would my daughters -that is perhaps even more telling . Brava for not being cliched.
– Leah Justin
Congratulations on your Diva show. What a beautiful, warm, embracing night that was. It was such a joy to be in that room.
– Hannie Rayson
A remarkable evening….so much talent and the stagecraft was brilliant given the lack of space, big bucks and technology. Clever! I cried through the first few items (with gratitude). My generation walked away from Yiddish. Yours is giving it a second life. Please pass on my congratulations to all concerned.
– Julie Meadows
You guys were so talented, and i felt so lucky to work with you! Each of you have AMAZING talents!!! I feel like I have had 9 mentors teaching me different things!!!!! And thanks everyone else for making it so good.
– Nooshi, youngest Diva, 10yrs old