The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater

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Featuring Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony
Broadway’s Judy Blazer and Shuler Hensley topline affectionate re-creation of the early Yiddish Theater

The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater, a celebration of Yiddish theater pioneers Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky by their grandson, Michael Tilson Thomas, Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, airs on Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 2 p.m. on Eight, Arizona PBS.

Recorded in April 2011 at the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center in Miami Beach, The Thomashefskys is written and hosted by Tilson Thomas and stars Broadway performers Judy Blazer as Bessie Thomashefsky and Shuler Hensley as Boris Thomashefsky.  It also features Ronit Widmann-Levy and Eugene Brancoveanu and the New World Symphony.

Founding members of the Yiddish Theater in America, the Thomashefskys owned theaters, published their own magazine, wrote columns in the popular Yiddish newspapers, sponsored and encouraged generations of young artists, brought uncountable numbers of Yiddish artists to America, tirelessly raised funds for progressive social causes and, though it all, were adventurous trend setters.

This story, reclaimed by The Thomashefky Project, presents a musical sound that few have heard, assimilating Eastern European klezmer and cantorial modes with American tunes and rhythms. Over time, as the Jewish-American music theater writers became absorbed in their new surroundings, they greatly influenced the American Songbook.

The Thomashefskys is a very personal project for Tilson Thomas, celebrating the lives and theatrical and musical legacies of his grandparents. Born out of his desire to preserve the music of the Yiddish theater, The Thomashefsky Project, founded in 1998, expanded from an archival role to this stage production hosted and conducted by Tilson Thomas and directed for the stage by Broadway veteran Patricia Birch.  

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