The "invaluable" Metropolitan Playhouse--2011 Obie Award winner--presents a revival of THE JAZZ SINGER, by Samson Raphaelson. First staged in in 1925 and revived in 1927, the play now receives the first professional production in the city, directed by Laura Livingston at Metropolitan's home: 220 E 4th Street .
Previews begin 11/12; Opening Night: 11/18; Closing: 12/11.
Tickets are $22 general; $18 students/seniors; $10 children, and may be purchased at www.metropolitanplayhouse.org/tickets or 212 995 5302.
Jakie Rabinowitz, son to the Orchard Street Synagogue's revered Hazzan (or Cantor), should be next in a long line of gifted and devout Cantors. But his love for jazz and the feel of the American streets took him in pursuit of popular stardom. THE JAZZ SINGER begins when Jakie--now Jack Robin--returns home after five years singing in Chicago dives to celebrate his big break: a starring role in a Broadway review. Mortified rather than delighted by his son's new career, his father orders him from the house: "you loafer....you bum....you jazz singer!" Jack leaves without looking back, but on opening night of his Broadway debut--also the eve of Yom Kippur--his mother comes to the theater to tell him his father is too ill to sing the service, and to implore Jack to return to take his place in the synagogue. To return is to abandon his stage career; to stay is to break his mother's heart. Torn between his producer and fiancée on the one side, and his mother and community on the other, Jack/Jakie must find himself either in his lofty dreams of future stardom or his deep connection to his spiritual heritage.
Made famous--and then infamous--by Al Jolson's performance in the 1927 film, THE JAZZ SINGER has practically been forgotten as a play. Its central dilemma has been overwhelmed by both the film's significance in cinema history--the first feature film to use synchronized sound for dialogue--and by Jolson's/Jack's black-face performance. At its core TheJazz Singer is a touching story of a son's striving to define his own life by both abandoning and honoring the love and inheritance of his family. Surrounding that family drama is a particular American tension, that of a young generation seeking American identity in relation to its immigrant heritage. Metropolitan now returns to these central themes, staging a play that mines the fraught struggle for personal and cultural identification within conflicting traditions as the second in our season devoted to exploring Class in America.
Samson Raphaelson (1894 - 1983) was a prolific author of stories, plays, and screenplays. Born on the Lower East Side, he was left in the care of his grandparents at age 5 when his father pursued a job offer across the country, but he rejoined his family in Chicago 8 years later. Various employments included teaching, advertising, and crime reporting, but he pursued writing from early on, and earned a degree in English from the Illinois Institute of Technology. One of his early successes, THE JAZZ SINGER was inspired by the man who ultimately defined the title role. Raphaelson saw Jolson perform in 1917, and five years later published "The Day of Atonement" in Everybody's Magazine, a short story inspired by Jolson's life. Adapted as THE JAZZ SINGER for Broadway three years later, with George Jessel in the lead, and then picked up by Warner Brothers at the end of its 303 performance run, the work helped launch Raphaelson's caeer. (The film was remade three times more after 1927, with Danny Thomas in 1952; Jerry Lewis in 1959, and Neil Diamond in 1980.) In 1927, too, Raphaelson married former Ziegfeld Girl Dorothy Wegman, and though he continued writing for the stage, he spent much of the '30's in Hollywood. There, he collaborated as a screenwriter with Ernst Lubitsch on TROUBLE IN PARADISE, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, and HEAVEN CAN WAIT, and with Alfred Hitchcock on 'Suspicion' (1941). Among his plays are HILDA CRANE, A ROSE IS NOT A ROSE, SKYLARK, and ACCENT ON YOUTH (revived on Broadway in 2009). Ultimately, a New Yorker at heart, he and his wife returned to the city and divided their time between an apartment and a house in Bucks County, PA. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Writers Guild in 1977, and continued to teach play writing at Columbia University until 1982.