FALL OF 1979. A small, intimate musical revue called BELZ! opens at the 99 seat Orpheum TheaterCorporation on Sunset Strip. It is an amalgam of letters and diaries written during the lifetime of a smalltime Jewish comedian, interwoven with old Jewish songs and jokes. The show is playing to sold outtheatres. FALL OF 1984. Pavel Cerny, the author and director of BELZ!, takes over the Callboard Theater onMelrose Place to mount a new, full-scale version of the musical, this time performed by a largeensemble of actors and singers. The musical has new songs added, a small orchestra on stage, dozens ofcostumes covering the musical’s arc from 1917 Galicia all the way till Broadway in 1967. The story ofthe life of our hero Hugo Schwartz, takes us from the town Belz made famous by the eponymous Jewish song, to Mukachevo 1917, Prague 1927, Vienna 1937 and then through the Borscht Circuit of the Catskill Mountain hotels all the way to New York and Broadway in 1967. Besides the history of those time periods, we also witness the development of Jewish humor, music, and last but not least, the dramatic life of our hero Hugo Schwartz.
The premiere, starring the Broadway and Hollywood (Grease) star Barry Pearl, is immediately hugely popular. Even audiences who have seen the first version are drawn to this new enlarged production. All dancing, all singing, and ALL TELLING GREAT JEWISH JOKES. The performances start selling out. Eventually we have a long waiting list for tickets. On some nights we even sell tickets for audience members to sit on the stove in the back of the Callboard Theater. BELZ! has become a cultural phenomenon. Soon we had audiences from all over LA. They sang along the songs, they finished the punch lines to the jokes before the actors got around to it, they came to view the show repeatedly. Eventually the production ran for over a year, something unheard of at that time in the small LA theaters.
FALL OF 2012. Lately there have been a number of extremely successful shows about Jewish humor(“Jewtopia” ran in LA for 2 years, “Old Jews Telling Jokes”, is selling out for months in New York). The time has come for a revival production of BELZ! It will open on March 2, 2013 at the Whitefire Theatre, at 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. It will play Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM.
Would you like to be a part of this experience?
Tickets are already now available at Brown Paper Tickets (800.838.3006 #1) or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/276015.
For group tickets please call Rosalie Lazarus (818.986.2908).