Saturday, June 16, 2012

Theatre review: "That's Life" from The Jewish Theatre of Pittsburgh. Sunday 17th June 2012

After an hiatus of five years Jewish Theatre of Pittsburgh is up and running again. Or rather, I should say, singing and dancing. It offers a production of a musical revue called That’s Life skillfully directed and choreographed by Mindy Rossi-Stabler and expertly performed by a polished ten person cast.

This show is not, as you might think, another Frank Sinatra repertoire-based show. Rather the group presents true stories about contemporary Jewish-American life, mostly from light-hearted points of view. It lived for three months off-Broadway in 1994 featuring 17 songs and one monologue with frequently clever lyrics by eight people and pleasant music by four others, music which does not, by the way, sound deliberately ethnic.

Several songs stand out with special sweetness. In one, a father reminisces about his son’s progression through life and, in another, other parents harmonize while sharing their ideas about their sons. And, touchingly, an aging, former big city delicatessen owner tells about how he and his wife chose a better life in Florida. Most often, though, the pieces offer gentle humor.

Credit director Ross-Stabler and her cast for rarely over-playing the words or over-selling the melodies, keeping much of the show sincere and genuine. They all have good voices and real dancing talent, capable too of catchy tapping.

Howard Elson, Leon S. Zionts and Holly Wine-Jones especially stand out with exceptional singing while John Burja exudes charming personality. They and the rest of the cast come together to create a constantly appealing ensemble, a fine way to welcome back a local theatre company whose quality hasn’t diminished despite a temporary absence.

That’s Life continues through June 24th at Levy Hall, Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Avenue, Shadyside. 1-800/838-3006 or

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