Hugo lands a job and is a big
success. He also meets a lovely young lady, Rivka (Ashley Taylor) and they
marry. Belz! portrays fifty years, from 1918 to 1968, in the life and
career of Hugo Schwartz as he performs in small European towns, and then
in the big cities like Prague, Vienna, and Paris. When Europe becomes too
dangerous for the Jews, he leaves for America with Rifka, his daughter
Erika, and stepson. He wows them at the Catskills and in New York City and
continues to make people laugh and cry.
As the years go by, Hugo never
forgets his homeland, Belz. He never stops talking about it. When he is
older and his children offer him the gift of a ticket to visit Belz after
all of these years, he realizes it could never be the same with the
passing of time and everyone gone.
The story is humane and
interesting, but what adds to the production is the music, the memorable
Yiddish songs from way back when, that we still sing today. And it is
entertaining hearing some of the old classic Jewish jokes and routines. It
is a large cast, eighteen in all, many who play several parts. The musical
accompaniment and background music is provided by Max the piano player (Ait
Fetterolf, also a character in the play). He is astounding as he plays the
piano almost non-stop throughout the production without using any music!
The rest of the cast includes Tom Lazur, Kenn Schmidt, Bridget James,
Charlie Stabile, Arthur Parian, Jade Duncan, Hallie Jordan, Richard
Warren, Veronica Alcino, Vonica Alcino, Vano Kimmel, Lance Frantzich,
Suzan Solomon, and Stasha Surdyke, as a wonderful chanteuse.
The play began a bit slow in the
beginning, but as it nurtured, it improved. Possibly cutting the running
time would be helpful. Belz! The Jewish Vaudeville Musical plays Thursdays
through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM through April 14, at the
Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For reservations,
(800) 828-3006, or go on online
for online ticketing. For group sales, call Rosalie Lazarus at (818)
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