by: Cantorial Soloist Lindi Rivers
“Mamma Mia”, what an evening! We gathered together in more numbers than we have seen in many months, the energy high, excitement in the air. Just over two years ago Purim marked the last congregational celebration before the first Pandemic lockdown. We had little idea what was to come and how long it would be before we would feel it possible to return to a full Temple life.
It seems that the time has come. Not that Covid will disappear, but as a society, we have learned how to manage it in our lives, and manage it we will. Why? Because we need to be together.
And so we were! Our Rabbis, Cantors and Principal of Youth Education and Family Engagement reminded us that “We Are Back” in an updated reprise of our previous mega-hit (this time our re-opening will stick!). We sang some Purim songs, our Megillah readers were awesome, then came a production to remember, “Mamma Mia Megillah”, an ABBA shpiel parody written by Jamie Marx, The Spiel Guy LLC, and liberally edited by the cast and our director. Our rocking musicians were ready. It was lights, camera, music, action and ”Honey, Honey”, the stage was set!
How did this all happen?
The idea was floated to raise the quality, appeal and production of our Purim celebrations this year. As the Purim evening coordinator and shpiel producer, I immediately thought of Vinnie Sestito, the director for Alexander Showcase Theatre, an acclaimed local theatre company. I knew Vinnie would pull out the best and funniest from our actors. I wanted this to be an “off-book”, tight and well-executed production. That meant not only a greater time commitment from our participants, in terms of rehearsals and memorizing scenes, music and staging, but also adopting a more ‘professional’ approach. This was no easy challenge since another wave of the pandemic pushed our in-person rehearsals back a month. With determination, we rehearsed online as well as we could and were very grateful when our Covid Cabinet agreed to allow us to begin rehearsing in person, masks adorned (it was for 1222Purim after all, so…getting in character?) Our actors rose to the occasion and allowed themselves to be guided, taught, stretched and challenged by Vinnie. Their willingness, commitment and growth were inspiring, and in the process, we learned to play on stage and had a lot of fun together. My fellow shpielers were “stepping up like they’ve never seen” (from “Shushan Queen”). Oh yeah!
And the people came! They came to celebrate, with the promise of something more, something that made it worth stepping out of their Covid comfort zone. I was moved by the energy and excitement in our sanctuary. It’s truly been too long.
We were able to mount the kind of production we hoped for with the generous sponsorship of Carole and Jay Sterling. Saul and Viviane Shipp sponsored part of the livestream and HBT Brotherhood sponsored hamantaschen and hot chocolate. It’s heartwarming to see how our members step up to make our community stronger. It makes a difference. You make a difference.
Thank you for coming together, both in-person and online. Did you miss it? No need for an “SOS”! You can still be a “Shushan Queen” Esther or King Achashverosh, and makes some noise “When Haman Takes It All” and watch our shpiel here!
Go ahead, have a laugh on us. We can all use it.
PURIM 2022 CHANTERS AND PLAYERS
“We Are Back” reprise: Rabbi Yael Splansky, Cantor David Rosen, Rabbi Zachary Goodman, Rabbi Bill Tepper, Lisa Isen Baumal, Cantorial Soloist Lindi Rivers
MEGILLAT ESTHER CHANTERS
Rachel Malach, Jeff Denaburg, Gerry Prendergast, Brian Lidsky, Helena Fine, Lisa Isen Baumal, Suzanne Hersh
CAST AND CREW
Esther: Carina Newton
Mordechai: Jordan Silverman
King Achashverosh: Alan Heavenrich
Haman: Seth Mukamal
Vashti: Sharon Smith
Zeresh: Helena Fine
Minister: Beth Roher
Maiden 1: Susie Helfand
Maiden 2: Eva Ormut-Fleishman
Maiden 3: Lindi Rivers
Peasant: Avishai Sol
DIRECTOR: Vinnie Sestito
STAGE MANAGER: Marla Minshall
PRODUCER: Lindi Rivers
SOUND/LIGHTING: In-house: James Kean of Audio Operations
Livestream: SAVI (James Groff and Eric Jones)
SET DESIGN AND PAINTING: Beth Roher (with thanks to Alexander Showcase Theatre)
COSTUMES: Susie Helfand, Eva Ormut-Fleishman (with thanks to Gwyneth Sestito and AST)
Makeup: Laura Moshenberg
BAND: Igor Kurtzman (keyboard); Shelley Miller (bass)
Original shpiel by Jamie Marx, The Spiel Guy, LLC, with liberal additions by Vinnie and the cast.