This remarkable one-night only show by Ari Axelrod at the Skokie Theatre honored the songs and behind-the-scenes stories of Jewish composers and their contributions to Broadway. In “A Celebration of Jewish Broadway,” Ari’s warm persona blended with his powerful range of voice gave a fresh new interpretation to standard classics by Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers, Stephen Schwartz, Carole King and in loving memory of Stephen Sondheim. Ari explained in great detail about the underlying presence of Eastern European melodies, many found in daily prayer ritual, in the American musical throughout the past century. His deep insights created a an emotionally rich, spiritual awakening when the audience came to realize their own personal connection to the music as well as each other.
Axelrod is the kind of performer who wears his Judaism on his sleeve (and around his chest) and brings his 4-legged pal Leo on stage at the close. He was sincere, authentic and left a powerful impression.
Musical highlights included songs from Jerry Herman’s “Milk and Honey” which he played in the musical’s revival, Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” Cole Porter (an Episcopalian whose tunes resonate in mournful Jewish tradition) Jason Robert Brown, the Gershwin brothers and Irving Berlin.
In singing “God Bless America,” Axelrod said that this song was a love letter to the U.S., thanking them for allowing his family to live here in freedom.
But more than his music were his own experiences in the theatre that delighted the audiences and made for one meaningful celebration that would be long remembered.
Since the Skokie Theatre re-opened last summer, it has brought back its popular theatre series with four shows for the 2021-2022 season. In between shows, the theatre will continue to bring outstanding cabaret, concerts, dance, and comedy acts to the community.
A More Whiskey Holiday Special, December 17, 8 p.m. Tickets $20
Enjoy the sounds of More Whiskey, an American/Folk band that blends rich vocal harmonies with strings, keys and percussion.
The Legendary Ladies of Jazz – Ella, Sarah, Dinah & Billie with Tammy McCann, December 18, Tickets $25
The perfect holiday musical celebrates the ladies of jazz who changed the world of music for women forever. Listen to the soulful sounds of Tammy McCann, one of today’s premiere jazz stylists. Revel with Tammy as she goes back in time with such classics as Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Made,” Sarah Vaughan’s “Misty,” Ella Fitzgerald’s “How High the Moon” and Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain.”
Smarty Pants – The Big Balloon Holiday Show, Wednesday, December 22 at noon and 2 p.m. Tickets $10
Bring the whole family as Smarty Pants entertains with music, comedy and ginormous balloons for the perfect holiday entertainment.
The Erev Christmas Eve Comedy Show, Thursday, December 22 at 7:30 p.m, Tickets $20
Have a ball at this all-star Jewish cast celebrating the holiday season featuring stand up comedy, games and prizes. Hosted by Jan Slavin and Jeremy Drazner and featuring Lia Berman, Seth Davis, Eunji Kim and Drew Loryn.
Motown and Soul Music Show with Dre, Thursday, December 30 at 8 p.m, Tickets $35
Singer Dre Hilton brings to life the legends of soul music such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, James Brown & The Temptations. Dre toured with the world famous Soul of Motown Show from 2013 – 2020.
Shows at the Skokie Theatre are under the direction of Wendy Kaplan and Wayne Mell of MADKAP Productions.
As per Covid-19 protocols, guests are asked to present proof of vaccination upon entry and remain masked while in the building. Skokie Theatre is located at 7924 Lincoln Ave in Skokie. For more information, go to skokietheatre.org or call 847-677-7761.