The sun will come out for Hanukka

‘Annie’ comes to Beit Hillel at The Hebrew University.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
December 15, 2016 19:01
3 minute read.
‘Annie’

‘Annie’. (photo credit: PR)

Take a cast ranging in age from 10 to their 60s, a classic musical comedy for the entire family and a veteran team of theater professionals, stir well, add a large dose of Hanukka, and you get Annie – The Musical. The production will run nine times at The Beit Hillel Theater Workshop (December 25 to January 1).

If past Beit Hillel Theater Workshops shows are indicators, then this is a great way to enjoy a Hanukka family experience. The intimacy of the theater and the joy of the actors on stage make for a great evening of theater.

Annie is a story of compassion, love and caring. It’s a “miracle” for one lucky orphan taken out of dismal orphanage life and chosen to be cared for by a New York billionaire.

“We selected Annie for its relevance, for its magical storyline and timeless message,” says Michael Berl, founding director of the Beit Hillel Theater Workshop. “It not only entertains but also teaches. It is both great comedy and poignant at the same time. The characters are larger than life – from the notorious Ms. Hannigan to the sleazy Rooster and Lily St. Regis, from the overbearing Oliver Warbucks to the street wise Annie. The music is memorable with songs like “Hard Knocks Life,” “Maybe” and the show’s signature song, “Tomorrow.” The bonding of performers of a wide range of ages and backgrounds makes for an unusual blend of theater community.”

The Beit Hillel Theater Workshop was the creation of Joey Silverman (now Dr. Joey Silverman), a One Year Gap student at Hebrew University. He suggested the idea to then Hillel director Rabbi Yosef Goldman. Michael Berl was invited to direct. The workshop was designed to attract Anglos studying in Israel to Hillel activities.

“Our first production – Fiddler on the Roof – was rehearsed in a dormitory basement, was performed in the Hillel lecture hall with plastic seats, four theater lights, and an accordion. Thirty-one seasons and 1,100 actors later, Hillel productions are performed in a renovated theater with acoustical walls, tufted theater seats, a four-piece music ensemble and full lighting design. It retains a professional lighting/ sound designer, set designer and choreographer.

Michael Berl has been the workshop’s only director. It is still a student-based operation with students involved in set design, costumes, ticket sales and sales promotion.”

Since its inception in 1985, the Beit Hillel Theater Workshop has engaged in drama, comedy, musicals, concert tributes, operetta and Holocaust presentations in English and Hebrew.

Their community theater approach is unique, as auditions are not subject to previous theatrical experience.

“We are always discovering someone with unusual skills who is making their debut or hasn’t been on stage since the Grade #1 Hanukka play” says Berl. “In addition, the actors have an active say in blocking scenes and often add their own creative ideas and suggestions to the production.”

The sense of community that prevails among the performers has made the workshop a vital part of Hillel programming. It makes for a great melding experience, as well as a singular theatrical event.

Annie is directed by Michael Berl, with Paul Salter directing the music, and Avichai Barlinski as choreographer. Reuven Laytush is the sound and lighting designer, and Dooby Harvey is the set designer. The Annie cast includes the hilarious Gabrielle Shine as Ms. Hannigan; the gifted Zvi Goldfeld as Oliver Warbucks; the vivacious Shoham Campagnano as Lily St. Regis; the talented Jennifer Fleischer as Grace Farrel; the comical Nachum Hackett as Rooster; veteran actor Bryan Friedland (playing four characters); and making her debut as the star of a Hillel production, the extraordinary Chaya Weintraub as Annie.

The cast and staff of Annie dedicates its performances to the victims of terror wherever they may be. To their families, the cast of Annie extends the wish that “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

December 25 to January 1, including matinees. Rachel Simon Theater, Beit Hillel, Hebrew University, Mount Scopus Campus. For ticket information: Avital (02) 581-7714 or via Fun In Jerusalem


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