By ALAN SMASON
What could be more Jewish than a celebration with Broadway music as its theme? In an homage to the Great White Way titled “Jewish Roots of Broadway: A Musical Night from Gershwin to Godspell,” the Jewish Regional Children’s Service (JCRS) put on its largest gala ever Saturday night, celebrating the service of the Scharff and Tolmas families with a crowd of just under 500 at the Boeing Freedom Pavilion of the National World War II Museum.
With vintage World War II fighter planes suspended above its huge atrium and giant TV screens and a huge sound system blaring, JCRS presented an extended program in which the accomplishments of noteworthy Jewish composers and lyricists were acknowledged including Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Kurt Weill, Jerry Adler, Jerry Herman, Jerry Bock, Julie Styne, Sheldon Harnick, Cy Coleman, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Strouse, Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Marvin Hamlisch, Mel Brooks, Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz.
Harry Mayronne played piano and served as music director while vocalists Chris Wecklein, Darcy Malone and Amy Alvarez sang selections to the accompanying music of violinist Dr. Sick, bassist Mark Brooks and most recent JCRS president Bruce Miller on drums. Hank Greenwald served as narrator, while WVUE-TV’s Bruce Katz was the master of ceremonies for the evening.
Earlier in the evening, attendees gathered for a cocktail reception outside the newest addition to the National World War II Museum’s complex of buildings. Once ushered inside, long buffet serving lines snaked around the interior of the Boeing Freedom Pavilion as hungry guests availed themselves of food catered by John Besh of the American Sector Restaurant associated with the museum.
Following the meal, Katz invited JCRS president Leon Rittenberg, III to welcome the crowd and thank them for all the work they make possible through donations and support.
Katz then called executive director Ned Goldberg to the podium to make the first of several separate presentations of specially designed awards by noted artist Gary Rosenthal to members of the Scharff and Tolmas families. Lee Scharff accepted on behalf of his wife Susan and his parents Dan and Florence. Sons Erik and David were also in attendance.
Goldberg next presented Dr. Jeanie Tolmas one of several Rosenthal-designed awards to members of her family, which included her parents Dr. Hyman Tolmas and wife Connie as well as her brother Alan and his wife Gina. Daughters of Alan and Gina Tolmas – Sheina and Cara – were also at tableside.
Colorful reproductions of “Playbill” magazine culled from Broadway shows decorated each table, while an extensive program listed the accomplishments of Jewish Broadway performers like Sophie Tucker, Zero Mostel, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson and Barbra Streisand. Notes inside the program were written by local playwright Jon Broder, who wrote the script for the performances and helped determine with Mayronne what selections would be heard during the show.
Extensive information on all of the JCRS programs, which include providing funds to deserving students for college tuition, the administration of the PJ Library program, the wrapping of Chanukah gifts for needy children across the region, summer camp scholarships and assistance for Jewish youth with special needs were also acknowledged in the program and on the large TV screens throughout the night.
For exclusive photos from the night, check out the Gallery and click individual thumbnails or allow the slide show to load: