“This is the closest I’ll get to being on Broadway,” says Eileen Remor of our annual Purim spiel — the musical parody play that commemorates the salvation of the ancient Jews of Persia from slaughter at the hands of Haman. A longtime Stephen Wise member with experience in event and TV production, this will be Eileen’s 14th time singing and dancing in one of our spiels — and her first as production manager.
“We have a group of extremely dedicated Purim spielers who come back year after year to put on the most amazing shows,” says Rabbi Sam Natov, who oversees our Purim programming. “Two of my most burning needs in life are self-expression and being a part of a community,” Eileen explains. “Both are met through my role as a ‘Purim Spieler.’”
One particularly dedicated congregant wrote our Purim plays for 29 years. Before finally retiring in 2017, Norman Roth told The New York Times: “I heard the applause and I knew I had something, and ever since then, they’ve never let me stop.”
“Norman was a spiel-writing machine, and his amazing scripts are still sought after by synagogues around the world,” says Cantor Dan Singer, who has big shoes to fill as our new playwright. Cantor Singer finds that once he’s decided on the music and storyline, “the ideas flow quite quickly from there. I can finish writing a full Purim spiel in just a week or two, but then the editing process begins and that takes longer.”
Cantor Singer chose to parody “A Chorus Line” as a tribute to Gerald Schoenfeld, who helped bring the show to Broadway and is credited with saving commercial theater: “I felt that show has the most relevance to our present situation.” Giving us a preview, Cantor Singer explains: in “Api-Chorus Line: A Chorus Spiel” (a play on “apikoros,” Hebrew for “heretic”), King Ahasuerus plans to reopen Shushan Palace and resume Broadway shows despite a global pandemic. As the king’s casting director Haman searches for the best actors and singers in Shushan, he also plans to use auditions to find the city’s Jews — and execute them! How can Esther and the kids save Shushan from Haman’s awful show?
“This year’s spiel is a little different,” says Rabbi Natov. “Because of pandemic restrictions and all the uncertainty, we decided to pre-record it.”
On March 16, we’ll be gathering in our sanctuary for the Megillah reading at 5 p.m. followed by a children’s costume parade and dance party at 6 p.m. Then head home or to your nearest internet-enabled device for our spiel’s premiere at 7 p.m. — available virtually exclusively available virtually exclusively on our website and on Facebook and YouTube (or join our Zoom watch party)!
“Since the synagogue is a block away from Broadway,” Eileen asks: “can we call it off-Broadway?”