Technically, I’m off-Broadway. Still, living as I do at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 39th street, I’m only off by about two blocks.
Each summer, I head about two hours north of the city to music direct the musicals at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. When I first began in 2009, I was apprehensive as to how good a musical could possibly be when it was being produced with less than a week of rehearsal time in a language that most of the performers don’t understand. Still, over the last six years the Berkshires performing arts staff has grown into a team of over a dozen dedicated, gifted people led by the fearless Miriam Hertzon. It’s not Broadway, but it provides me with a meaningful opportunity to try and raise the artistic bar for fellow stage addicts and Chug-rejects.
About two months ago, I got a call from the most stage-addicted man I know, fellow Ramah staff musician, Lee Michael Epstein. He (as emcee) and I (as accompanist) were invited to share the stage at JTS’s Fineberg Auditorium with Ben Platt and Caissie Levy, two bona fide Broadway stars whose musical careers began in the Batei Am at their respective Ramah camps of Ojai and Canada. In true camp fashion, much of the event came together in the final week: I translated and arranged the finale (When I Grow Up from ‘Matilda’) on Monday, rehearsed it with the talented crew of Ramah alumni (Dylan Landau, Jamie Mittleman, David Offit and Jacob Samuel) at my apartment on Friday, and performed it on Sunday. As we sang wistfully about what we wished to be upon ‘growing up,’ it dawned on me how lucky we all were to have grown up in an environment like Ramah, having been given the chance to dream, sing, and play. The only challenge of course is finding a way to sustain the childlike glee that performance provides as we all become grown-ups. On a personal note, working with the enthusiastic and capable young performers at camp every summer has helped to sustain my own sense of youthful optimism and wonder.
And fortunately for the whole ensemble, we’ve all got at least one gig on the calendar for 2016: Look out for From Ramah to Broadway next season!