A record audience of 240 people turned out for the annual spring concert at Temple Or Elohim to hear Cantor David Katz, Carnegie Hall soloist Hayden DeWitt and Broadway pianist and singer Cathy Venable perform hit songs from more than a dozen classic Broadway shows.
In between singing the numbers, Katz and DeWitt feigned a “battle” with each other over the format of the show. DeWitt insisted that the nature of the show should be unchanged from the previous year, which focused on operas and operettas. The cantor countered with his demand that the show feature exclusively Broadway songs. Frustrated with the cantor’s decision, DeWitt jokingly told the audience “You’re in for a culturally bankrupt, plebian evening!”
After the show, DeWitt said the running gag was prompted by actual preconcert discussions regarding the format of the event, which last year was heavily weighted in favor of classical opera and operetta music.
One unique feature of the show this year was the “sponsorship” of individual songs by members of the congregation. Songs were dedicated to family members, children and grandchildren, and in one case—by Lana and Jim Math—to the military troops overseas. The Maths sponsored “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables.
Also singing was Emma Mogavero, a junior at Jericho High School and member of the Or Elohim congregation who received the second annual “Temple Or Elohim Young Artist Award,” a cash award toward further music and theatre training. Mogavero sang songs from two Broadway shows.
Sponsors of songs throughout the two-hour concert were Bob Feinstein, Larry Jacobs, Andrea and Jeffrey Lomasky, Lana and Jim Math, Neil Miller, along with Denna and Harvey Yoris. Some sponsors were anonymous.
Songs included selections from Brigadoon, South Pacific, West Side Story, Kismet, Guys and Dolls, Phantom of the Opera, Sondheim on Sondheim, Les Miserables and Fiddler on the Roof.
DeWitt’s appearance was her second time at the concert, repeating her success from last year’s opera-oriented event. DeWitt was educated at Julliard and the Conservatorio Pietro Morlacci in Italy. In addition to Carnegie Hall, she has sung in operas and venues including New York’s Opera Gaya and Amore Opera.
Piano player Venable has performed as pit pianist or rehearsal pianist for 12 Broadway musicals including The Light in the Piazza, Evita, Anything Goes, Curtains, Sondheim on Sondheim, Wonderful Town, Les Miserables and Aladdin. Venable is a graduate of Northwestern University and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She also sang at the concert, which produced surprise and praise from Katz and DeWitt.
Commenting on the full house at the beginning of the concert, Bob Feinstein, president of the Concert Committee, said, “It looks like the High Holidays!”
The powerful and professional presentations of the singers drew loud and sustained applause from the audience throughout the concert.
Katz said his hope is to develop the temple concert series as providing Manhattan-quality entertainment for a modest price. Admission fee was $25 per person, which included a dessert reception after the concert.