Teatron Toronto Jewish Theatre is reviving the hit show Jewish Radio Hour – The Musical, a production based on radio shows that were one of the main sources of information and entertainment for many Canadian Jews from the late 1930s to the late ’50s.
Phyllis Feldman, who presented the first edition of the musical two years ago, remembers listening to the original Jewish Radio Hour as a child. Her maternal grandparents, who were part of the 1920s wave of Jewish immigrants from Russia, tuned in weekly, as did her parents.
The radio show was a “microcosm of Jewish life, presented in that hour on Sunday morning,” said Feldman. It explored all facets of Jewish life, for an audience that wanted familiar content from the old country, even if they weren’t born there, she added.
The show also provided listeners with news about the Jewish world outside of Canada. “Before Israel was a state and during World War II, they would hear what was going on in Europe,” Feldman said. “And when Israel became a state, it was so exciting, because they would get news from Israel. It kept them in touch with what was going on.”
Yiddish singers who appeared at the Standard Theatre on Dundas Street and Spadina Avenue, the centre of Yiddish comedy and drama in Toronto, used to perform live on the original Jewish Radio Hour, when they were in town.
Radio personalities also gave their listeners advice on the air. They answered questions like, “I’m a newcomer and I’m having a problem with my landlord. What should I do?” The audience had an appetite for these segments, because some of their own questions about navigating the new world were being answered, Feldman said.
Demand from the many people who missed out on her first production of the musical led to the creation of the followup, to be presented at the Toronto Centre for the Arts from July 11 to 13. New content has been added to this production.
“Not only is it an amazing piece of entertainment, it’s a significant piece of Canadian Jewish history,” said Feldman, who’s now Teatron’s artistic director and executive producer.
The show is a collage of the Jewish Radio Hour programs that were broadcast from Toronto, Hamilton and St. Catharines, Ont. Characters in the musical are based on personalities who were part of the original radio shows.
“There’s a lot of humour in the show and there are some nostalgic moments that might even bring a tear to your eye,” Feldman said.
Jewish Radio Hour – The Musical is written and directed by award-winning writer, actor and singer Theresa Tova. It features a cast of Canadian stars, including Tova, David Gale, Aviva Chernick, Moish Kanatkin and Richard Greenblatt, the co-creator of the hit show, Two Pianos Four Hands. Fern Lindzon – a pianist, jazz vocalist and composer who’s part of the Canadian Jewish music scene – is the show’s musical director. Lindzon and three other musicians are featured in the show.
To order tickets for the show, on July 11 at 8 p.m., July 12 at 2 p.m. and July 13 at 8 p.m. at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, visit tocentre.com, or call 1-855-985-2787. For more information, visit teatrontheatre.com.