TORONTO — This Saturday evening at 10 o’clock, a crew of workers is set to descend upon the main sanctuary of Beth Tzedec Synagogue to transform it into a state-of-the-art concert hall for an appearance, on May 27, by one of the biggest musical stars – Neil Sedaka – to have ever performed in a Toronto synagogue.
Working through the night and probably much of Sunday, the crew will
hang a curtain over the Holy Ark, build a huge vinyl stage that
protrudes into the audience, erect several large scaffolding towers for
professional lighting standards, and remove numerous pews from the
extremities of the 2,000-seat sanctuary to improve the sightlines.
Sedaka, famous for such musical hits as Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Calendar Girl and Laughter in the Rain, has agreed to the rare synagogue concert because of his personal relationship with Cantor Simon Spiro, a former pop-music performer from London, England, who worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry before arriving at Beth Tzedec two years ago.
“We’re building a brand-new stage, and we’re extending the stage with an apron that juts into the audience,” Spiro said. “It’s a way of bringing the artist right into the audience.”
Spiro is singing a couple of numbers with Sedaka, who is bringing his own five-piece band and stage technicians for the rare gig. According to the mellow-voiced cantor, few synagogues anywhere would be able to meet the technical demands required to host the likes of a top-notch entertainer such as Sedaka, who does some 50 or 60 shows in major concert halls around the world each year – most recently in Australia and Manila. “It’s a show that’s never been put on in a synagogue before, a show that few synagogues could put on to this magnitude,” he said.
Because a few wealthy friends of the congregation are sponsoring the concert, tickets begin at a reasonable $36 and go up by increments. The $250 VIP package includes a post-concert reception at which guests may be photographed with Sedaka, which is “something you don’t normally get to do,” Spiro said.
Sedaka is of Turkish-Jewish descent, and his name likely derives from the Hebrew word “tzedakah,” meaning compassion or charity. The program will consist of many of his popular favourites and probably one or two Yiddish standards in recognition of his audience. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and the ticket hotline is 416-781-3514, ext. 218.