Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hints of ESTHER in the Weekly Torah Portion

Haman FALLS upon the bed.

This week's Torah portion , Vayechi, is one of the most emotional readings in the entire Five Books of Moses. An ailing Jacob, gathers his strength one more time, blesses his grandchildren, and shows us his a glimpse of his greatness and majesty one last time as he tells his children what awaits them and their ancestors throughout Jewish history.
Its commentaries also include several references to Megillat Esther, the story that Raise Your Spirits has brought to the stage this season.
In Chapter 48:2, a frail Jacob hears that his son Joseph has come to visit him, "So Israel exerted himself and sat up on the bed."
The Torah commentator the Baal HaTurim explains that despite his illness, our patriarch Jacob was able to rouse his strength once more and sit up upon the bed. Yet in Megillat Esther 7:8, we read that after Haman was revealed as the evil nemesis of the queen and her people, "Haman fell upon the bed" of Esther. This teaches us, according to the Baal HaTurim, that "even when they are weak, the righteous can strengthen themselves", but even when they are the peak of power, "the wicked will fall."
May it be so in our days, IY"H.
Further, the Sforno also speaks about the same phrase. Israel strengthened himself on the bed to give honor to the king (the pious Joseph). But the opposite was true in Megillat Esther 5:9, when Haman the king-wanna-be walked before the King's gate, Mordechai would not stand up or move before him.
Mordechai with Esther.
Lastly, it is interesting to note that the great Jewish leader Mordechai is called Mordechai HaYehudi.
That was because of the blessing that Jacob gave to his son Yehuda (49:8-12). Artscroll's commentary says, "So admired will you [Yehuda] be by all your brothers that Jews will not say, I am a Reubenite or a Simeonite, but I am a Yehudi. Thus we find that Mordechai, in the Book of Esther, was known as a Yehudi, even though he was from the tribe of Binyamin.
So often, our Torah portion and our commentators speak about Esther. It's a great feeling knowing that even in our fun production, we are connected to our Jewish heritage.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sold Out Smash and Other Excitements

Tonight we take the stage again in Raise Your Spirits' smash-hit "ESTHER and the Secrets in the King's Court".
It's exciting to know that our audience members come from (not just all over Israel, but) all over the world - Paris, London, Johannesburg, Los Angeles.
It's even more exciting that they'll be able to purchase our DVD and our newly minted CD to take along with them.
This ESTHER CD is already a classic. We've heard from the pros that this CD is better than anything we've created in the past ten years.
When we created our first ESTHER CD a decade ago, it was instantly so popular that we received a flood of emails telling us that women and girls just COULDN'T STOP listening.
And on Purim, homes from Melboune to Seattle, from Zurich to Buenos Aires were filled with our music. What a great feeling for everyone involved in Esther!
So tonight, not only do we perform live, but we're excited that our audience members will take our performance home with them too.
Friends, as you listen to the CD, think of the women and girls of Efrat and Gush Etzion who send you a hug with every song. Well, my "sons" and I are sending you a "Grrrrr."
If you're not able to get to the theater in Gush Etzion, you can order the CD or DVD on line -

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Making of the ESTHER CD

We spent our Chanukah, not only vacationing with our families, but working in the recording studio of Amit Benatar in order to create the ESTHER CD.
Raise Your Spirits' "ESTHER & the Secrets in the King's Court" has been such a tremendous success, B"H, audiences have clamored for more and more and more.
One more was added performances. We have just arranged them.
Another more was an ESTHER DVD. It's done and selling amazingly well.
And the latest more has been an ESTHER CD to play in your car, on your computer and while you're going through your busy life.
The ESTHER CD has all the great music of the show, plus all kinds of added touches to make it even more super-terrific.

We had such a great time in the recording studio. We entered, saw Amit's state-of-the-art sound board, plus the headphones (like a pilot wears), and a gated microphone (you've gotta sing to the gate). Suited up in this show biz paraphernalia, we really felt like Taylor Swift or Frank Sinatra (can those two names be said in the same sentence?).
The words to our songs were on a music stand, but it's easier and more natural to sing without them.

B"H, we knew them. Well, I sorta knew them. For some reason (nerves??), I was throwing "s"es all over the place. I only need three takes on those S-mistakes. I needed more for my Haman GASP when the King tells Haman to parade Haman's arch enemy Mordechai through the streets of Shushan. G-A-S-P!! (You get it?)

We sang our songs harmonized with one another, and those disembodied voices that were in our earphones.I even got to do the tap dances I do, as Haman, in the show. To accomplish the tap, I brought my metal-bottom tap shoes, of course, and my own wooden stage. (Well, it's important to always be prepared. :) )
Thanks to talented CD project coordinator Avital Macales, music director and pianist Gayle Berman and music magician Amit Benatar (who arranged composer Rivka Hattin Epstein's music, along with co-arrangers Paul Salter and Mitch Clyman) whose recording studio was our home for the week.
The CD is going to be powerful and packed with joy too. You'll love it. We'll let you know as soon as it hits the streets. POW!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reviewer Ruth Beloff Loved ESTHER

Thanks to Ruth Beloff of the Jerusalem Post for our latest smash hit review, B"H, bli ayin hara.

Ruth wrote:
12/12/2012 21:26
The thoroughly entertaining English-language musical was sparkled with witty lyrics, dazzling costumes and upbeat music that rocked the house.
The revival of Esther and the Secrets in the King’s Court made a very welcome return to the stage in Gush Etzion. Playing to a packed theater of women only, the thoroughly entertaining English-language musical, performed by the Raise Your Spirits Theater, sparkled with witty lyrics, dazzling costumes and upbeat music that rocked the house.
The classic story of Queen Esther, set to original music and wonderful choreography, with an all-female cast outfitted in 1920s garb, was riveting from start to finish. Under the able direction of Toby Klein Greenwald, the amateur cast – ranging in age from eight to 70 – sang and danced their hearts out as the Purim story unfolded in an array of brilliant song and dialogue.
To ensure that the audience wouldn’t miss a word of the cleverly crafted text, subtitles in English and Hebrew were projected on a background screen throughout the play.
Looking like the crew from Guys and Dolls, the large cast was flawless in their performance – from the regal Queen Esther (Avital Macales), the foolish King Ahashverosh (Elana Kronenberg), the dastardly Haman (Sharon Katz) and the wise Mordechai (Deena Lawi) to the ebullient townsfolk of Shushan and the chorus of delightful little children.
Songs like “Eunuchs in Tunics” and details like the town shoemaker wearing a black apron that read “Shushan shoeshine” affirmed the fact that the play was penned by people who really knew what they were doing.
Written in 2001 by Klein Greenwald, Arlene Chartoff and Sharon Katz in the throes of the intifada to give women some comic relief from the surrounding horrors of the time, the play was indeed a joy to experience.
The singing was superb, the dancing was divine, and the humor was hilarious. Not only did the play raise the spirits of the audience, but it impelled them to rise to their feet after the finale in a sustained and well-deserved standing ovation.
The performance schedule for January will be available at All Raise Your Spirits productions are performed for audiences of females only.

Photo by Rebecca Flash Kowalsky of .