How Will The “Good” Portray “The Queen of Mean?”
The Queen of Mean becomes The Queen of Cabaret, bringing you an evening of fun, frolic and foreclosure!
If you are like me, you grew up with Tovah, with pride, nachas !! Who else from Westchester, New York, and a graduate from Sarah Lawrence College, would changed her name from Terri Sue to Tovah and work continuously on stage and screen for over four decades?
I recently had the pleasure of obtaining the first interview with Feldshuh featuring the debut of Tovah as Leona, premiering July 5th in New York City at Feinstein’s 54 Below. Tovah will also be returning to the small screen on June 25th, in the CBS hit series, Salvation, as the President of the United States, Pauline Mackenzie.
I asked Feldshuh how the Leona project came together. “I was offered the part in this new show by the musical team that bought the rights to the Randall Pierson’s unauthorized biography, “The Queen of Mean.” I was drawn to project immediately because it was different and fun. I play Leona, Harry, her husband, Ida, her mother, and Jay, her son. It’s also unique by featuring both classic and original music to the show. There is such positive talk about the show that I have heard there is already interest in bringing the musical to Broadway.”
Many know Tovah from her stage career and as a four time Tony nominated actress. She has played so many strong Jewish woman. She was the original Yentl. Perhaps her most famous portrayal is of Golda Meir. In fact, she isin Canada starring in “Golda’s Balcony.”
I asked Feldshuh why she thinks the show continues to draw crowds internationally. “Golda Meir was a warrior, with a story people today can relate to, people fighting to breathe as a minority and winning. It helps that William Gibson, the playwright, wrote The Miracle Worker, Two for the Seasaw and worked on various projects since 1977 about Meir. Golda’s Balcony has set the record years ago as the longest-running-one-woman play in Broadway history.
I asked Tovah if her “Jewishness” has had any impact on her career. “Perhaps, but I’ve played famous Catholic women roles, starred in Shakespeare’s plays and never felt typecasted. If anything, being Tovah brought me an international Jewish audience, an audience that has supported me over 45 years.”
It’s hard to be that 40 years ago, Feldshuh was Emmy-nominated for the television miniseries, Holocaust as partisan Helena Slomova. Given today’s climate in Hollywood, and a worldwide growth in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, I asked Tovah if the show, that aired on NBC, could be made today. She said no, because it was viewed more as a soap opera. She explained to Elie Wiesel at the time that they didn’t make the movie for New Yorkers or survivors, but for people who live around the country who never met a Jew, or a survivor. Those people learned from the television movie that the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis was not a dance, not a “hora.” It changed classroom lessons at that time.
Her portrayal of Irene Gut, a Righteous Polish nurse, who saved Jews and is honored at Yad Vashem, in Irena’s Vow, is another story. “People yearn for stories about heroines like her.”
It’s amazing how youthful and energetic Tovah Feldshuh is. She told me that the secret to her youthfulness is swimming daily and no cosmetic surgery. “I am a storyteller and my face actually moves and stretches!”
Known for playing many Jewish mothers, including in the film’s, Kissing Jessica Stein and A Walk On The Moon, I asked Feldshuh what advise she gives her son and daughter. “Marry like a Jew, Divorce like a Catholic,” she joked, adding, “Don’t get divorced. I have been happily married for decades to the same man, their father. Both of my children are married, graduated from Ivy League schools and are successful in their respective fields. We gave them a good script to follow. We also taught them to give back, as I have. When I was 25-years-old, I helped raise funds for UJA Young Professionals and have helped fundraise in many organizations since.”
We closed our interview with a funny story. Tovah Feldshuh knew she made “it” when she was an answer in a Wall Street Journal puzzle recently. Be sure to make it to Feinstein’s 54 Below on July 5,6,7. Ticket information:
“THE QUEEN OF MEAN”
music by Ron Passaro
lyrics by David Lee,
book by Alex Lippard and David Lee Concept and additional lyrics by Alex Lippard
TOVAH is LEONA!
Concept by Jeff Harnar Musical direction by James Bassi Musical Arrangements and Additional Lyrics
by James Bassi and Jeff Harnar
Directed by Jeff Harnar.