Purim tale gets Yiddish musical treatment 

click to enlarge From  left, Joel Fleisher, Linda Hirschhorn, Heather Klein,  Josiah Polhemus and Laura Sheppard appear in the Bay Area production of the Yiddish musical “Di Megileh of Itzik Manger.” - COURTESY ANDY MUCHIN
  • COURTESY ANDY MUCHIN
  • From left, Joel Fleisher, Linda Hirschhorn, Heather Klein, Josiah Polhemus and Laura Sheppard appear in the Bay Area production of the Yiddish musical “Di Megileh of Itzik Manger.”

A Yiddish musical -- sung in Yiddish with English supertitles and telling the Biblical story of Esther from a new perspective -- is the prelude to the 29th Jewish Music Festival.

This week in Berkeley, the Yiddish Theater Collective presents the local premiere of "Di Megileh of Itzik Manger," a show that's been a hit with Jewish audiences in Israel and New York. It tells Queen Esther's tale -- the basis for the Jewish holiday Purim, which begins next week -- in a way quite different from what Hebrew schoolers learn.

Written by Manger, a prominent 20th-century Yiddish poet and playwright, the show, filled with klezmer-style music by Israeli composer Dov Seltzer, recounts the tale of Esther from the eyes of Esther's jilted lover.

The cast list for the local staged concert presentation is a who's who of Bay Area theater and Jewish music performers, including Berel Alexander, Linda Hirschhorn, Heather Klein, Eliana Kissner, Joan Mankin, Naomi Newman, Gerry Tenney, Joel Fleisher, Josiah Polhemus and Laura Sheppard.

Bruce Bierman, directs and choreographs, and musical direction is by Achi Ben Shalom.

After the prelude Yiddish performance, the Jewish Music Festival begins March 20, with a show featuring Israeli rockers Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis with special guest Yair Dalal at Yoshi's in San Francisco.

Additional concerts at various Berkeley venues include: "The Afro-Semitic Experience" on March 22; singer Anthony (Mordechai-Tzvi) Russell on March 23; scholar, poet, singer-songwriter and violinist Alicia Jo Rabin on March 27 and March 29; and jazz pianist and singer Ben Sidran on March 30.

IF YOU GO

Di Megileh of Itzik Manger: A Purim Musical

Where: JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley

When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday,

2 p.m. Sunday, 1 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $12 to $22

Contact: (510) 848-0237, ext. 118

www.jewishmusicfestival.org

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