JEST’s grand finale

The Jerusalem English Speaking Theater bids a fond farewell to the local stage

Theater (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
At its farewell event at Kibbutz Ramat Rahel on Thursday night, the Jerusalem English Speaking Theater staged its final production for its dedicated cast and crew and loyal audience. After an impressive 29-year run, the community theater group presented a two-hour show that highlighted the wide array of plays and musicals it produced and performed over its nearly three decades, and paid tribute to the pillars of the pioneering enterprise. Established in 1985 JEST was the first, and for many years the only, English-language theater group in Jerusalem.
Preceded by a wine and cheese party where theater and audience members mixed and mingled, the show consisted of a number of video clips from JEST’s repertoire of 101 plays, such as Annie, The Pajama Game and Korczak’s Children, as well as live performances of songs, scenes and some original material written for the occasion.
Hosted by JEST actor Bruce Oppenheimer and chairperson Rachel Keene, the show included live musical numbers such as “Another Opening, Another Show” from Kiss Me Kate; “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun; “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific; “Little Girls” from Annie; and “Shall We Dance” from The King and I. Also on stage, selected scenes were reenacted from the plays The Disputation, Love a La Mode, Educating Rita, and Collected Stories.
A charming and witty monologue entitled “Let the Table Speak,“ written and delivered by Oppenheimer, chronicled the trials and tribulations of a JEST stage prop named Astor, a small round table retrieved from the Astor Hotel in New York decades ago.
In addition, young actress Ilana Blumsack recited a poem written on behalf of the more than 100 children that had participated in JEST productions over the years, and a trio of JEST actors sang “You’re the Top,” with original lyrics dedicated to mentor and role model Leah Stoller, who directed 55 of the theater group’s plays.
In her address to the audience, Stoller, who received a standing ovation, thanked the many people who had contributed their time and talent on stage and behind the scenes, as well as JEST’s devoted audience.
Briefly losing her train of thought, but never her cool or her presence of mind, the 85-year-old veteran director quipped as an aside, “This is not a senior moment, it’s a senior hour!” and then continued seamlessly with her address.
“To our colleagues in the English theater world” – such as Encore!, J-Town Playhouse, LOGON and Israel Musicals – “long may you flourish and bring good English theater to our audiences,” she said.
In fact, as a show of solidarity, as door prizes each of those theater groups donated a pair of tickets to their next production.
In an appropriate ending to the evening, the ensemble cast went up on stage to sing a rousing rendition of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
They were joined by the audience who sang along in their seats, as the lyrics were conveniently printed on the back of the program.
As the song says, “There’s no business like show business....Everything about it is appealing.”