Ever since 2006, people from all over the Jewish community have been asking Tito Braunstein if he would ever bring the Jewish Theatre of Pittsburgh (JTOP) back to life. Braunstein, founder of JTOP, was forced to shut it down because of health problems.
Now, six years later, JTOP returns, opening with the musical revue “That’s Life,” a nostalgic, often comedic musical that had been an off-Broadway hit in the 1990s.
Braunstein decided to go with “That’s Life” because it was the first show that JTOP produced when the company started out in 2001. The show, comprised of 17 songs based on 12 true stories, was the best attended of all JTOP productions.
“Each song is of a different character; some are very humorous, some are hysterically funny,” Braunstein said. “Others are nostalgic of times in life that people value and treasure. It is the type of show that everyone leaves much happier than when they came in. It’s a very uplifting show.”
One story is about an Orthodox girl who wants to to sit downstairs in synagogue, but she is not allowed to because the women must sit upstairs, separate from the men.
Another tale is about a young Jewish boy who goes Christmas caroling with a girl that isn’t Jewish. The boy cannot bring himself to express the name of Jesus, so he begins to cough when he is supposed to sing the name.
A father, putting his son on a ship to America, sings a song about someday singing freedom’s song together.
Director Mindy Rossi-Stabler, who is also the musical theater program director at CAPA High School, directed the show both previous times JTOP produced it. Four of the original eight cast members will return for the latest run of the musical.
“I’m very excited to have it open again. The second time I did it, I had more fun than the first, and the third time I’m having more fun than the second,” Rossi-Stabler said. “Even the people that have done it all three times are still moved by the words and the music, and the overall journey that we take.”
Braunstein said that JTOP has been working on bringing “That’s Life” together since last December, a great deal of effort for a show that will only run for a span of 10 days.
“It’s a lot of hard work, [the actors] are dancing, and singing and acting, and there’s tap dance — there’s everything in this show,” Rossi-Stabler said. “It’s an unbelievable journey that we take when the lights first go up.”
Want to go?
June 12 through 24
Rodef Shalom Congregation’s Levy Hall
Call 800-838-3006 or visit jewishtheatrepgh.org to purchase tickets.
(Andrew Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.)