Theater is dark, but the show goes on
The loss of its permanent showplace notwithstanding, the Axelrod Performing Arts Center is adhering to a time-honored theatrical tradition: The shows will go on.
In fact, some productions already have: While the theater at the former Ruth Hyman Jewish Community Center in Deal has gone dark, APAC has put together an ambitious agenda of activities, including a film and theatrical revue, in other venues around the county.
When the Axelrod theater went dark last November as part of a bankruptcy proceeding at the JCC, the APAC board of trustees decided to mount programs at alternative venues, said APAC CEO Jess Levy.
“We hope this will prove to be just an interim measure,” Levy said during a phone interview with NJJN. “Once new owners take over the building in Deal, we hope to be able to move back in, and again take advantage of the 550-seat state-of-the-art facility that had been our home for five years.”
In the meantime, he said, he and Lisa Goldfarb, director of the center’s Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts Program, have put together a schedule of events that they are certain will draw large audiences.
The first two events, coproduced with the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County, were presented at the Freehold museum. “Travelling the Yiddishland,” a musical homage to Yiddish music and culture, drew a sellout crowd of more than 100 on Feb. 10. A week later, the museum hosted Six Million and One, a Shoa documentary.
Next up is “Broadway and Jazz Showstoppers,” a Sunday, March 10, concert at the Urban Nest (formerly Chico’s House of Jazz) in Asbury Park. It will feature musicians Carl and Art Topilow. Carl is a clarinetist as well as conductor of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra; his brother Art, a jazz pianist, is director of medical oncology at Jersey Shore Medical Center.
Two guest artists — the husband-and-wife duo of Gary Mauer and Elizabeth Southard, who played the leads in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway — will join the Topilows on the bill.
The heaviest block of programs, under the theme “Israel Together,” is planned for the four-week span from April 28 through May 26.
“We will celebrate Israel’s 65th anniversary with three concerts, a series of Israeli films, an Israeli Cafe night, and an exhibit,” said Levy.
Supported in part by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, these programs will kick off Sunday, April 28, with an appearance by Mika Karni and Kol Dodi, an ensemble of Israeli, Moroccan, Yemenite and Ethiopian musicians and singers.
Internationally renowned performer David Broza will close the series on Sunday, May 26.
Dates and places have yet to be assigned for some of the Israel-themed events, including the cafe night, although Levy said Avram Pengas, a Greek-born guitarist and bouzouki virtuoso, will headline with the Noga Group.
The Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts — a program of Axelrod and the JCC of Western Monmouth County — also will mount its next major musical production May 5 and 9. Goldfarb will direct the show along with musical director and accompanist Andy Edison Jack.
Last year’s production, Alice in Wonderland, sold approximately 400 tickets for each of its two performances at the Deal JCC, Goldfarb said.
Auditions have been held for this year’s show, and Goldfarb said at least 20 local youngsters between the ages of eight and 16 will participate. Rehearsals will take place at the JCC of WMC, located in the Freehold Jewish Center.
Both Levy and Goldfarb acknowledged the difficulty of working with a “traveling” theater as opposed to a fixed home base. Nonetheless, both were upbeat about the number and quality of events that have been scheduled for 2013.
“We’re excited about bringing our offerings to other parts of the county. Monmouth County is very large, and we were drawing mainly from the eastern half. Now we have a chance to connect with new audiences in the west,” said Levy.
Both he and Goldfarb encouraged local businesses and individuals to sponsor one or more of the Axelrod center’s upcoming programs (interested parties can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and Goldfarb at email@example.com). Details on upcoming events can be found at axelrodartscenter.com.