In Stars of David -- the concert "celebrating the stories of" famous Jews that ran through Sunday, December 15 at the DR2 Theatre -- a man and a woman play Alan and Marilyn Bergman telling the story of Yentl's premiere.Alan Bergman says:
Yentl opened in Beverly Hills for some hospital charity -- a very rich, affluent group, mostly Jewish. And they sat on their hands. Because what was clearly going on in their minds was, 'What are the goyim going to think?
His wife responds: "Yes. That's the important point: Jewish self-hatred and shame and paranoia. Everything is focused through 'Oh, how does this look to gentile eyes?"
This was particularly funny to me because, as I sat in the small theater crammed with Jews, I thought the same thing about Stars of David. I don't think it's self-hatred as much as realism. Shows are frequently targeted to certain audiences. Often good shows fail because they can't attract the right audience. Marketing is both a science and an art -- it's about studying the demographics and finding a way to get the correct folks to see your show. No one is targeting Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas to my aunt.
I often sit in the theater and think: "Who is the audience for this?" I think that whether the show is about Jews or not. I am actually not the ideal audience for Jewish-themed shows; my mother is. Over the years, Richard Kornberg (who, along with Billy Zavelson from his office, represents Stars of David) has convinced me to go to many shows I ordinarily wouldn't, often by saying: "Cara Joy, how could you not take your mother?" Sometimes I sit through these productions and think: "Wow, only my mother..." Sometimes I think, "Not even my mother..." But, other times, like during Stars of David, I think: "This could play at Jewish Community Centers everywhere." I am not sure what the goyim would think about it, but it shouldn't much matter. The people in the theater the night I attended loved it.
Stars of David, based on the book of the same name by Abigail Pogrebin and conceived by Aaron Harnick and Pogrebin, features anecdotes by famous members of the Jewish faith. Some of those are set to music, with songs provided by a series of top composers (including the Bergmans, Marvin Hamlisch, Sheldon Harnick, Richard Maltby and David Shire and Jeanine Tesori). Most of the songs do not represent the best work ever of the individual songwriters, but, on a whole, they are entertaining enough. There are also enough mainstream famous people "featured" to make the show entertaining to a wide range of people. And by "wide range," I mean, "Jews of all ages," rather than, "tons of non-Jews." I don't think Stars of David would be painful for non-Jews, and some might like it, but it just doesn't seem made for a non-Jewish audience.
I could see Stars of David playing in multiple Florida cities. I could see it playing at JCCs. The show first premiered in Philadelphia with a book by Charles Busch and a cast of five. That book was scrapped, along with one cast member -- making the show even easier to tour or license. (Gordon Greenberg directed both the original staging and this new concert version that ran off-Broadway.)
In total, this is a show tailored for an audience. Not everything needs universal appeal. In the case of a small-scale show, attracting your core tribe might be enough.