A Backstage Look at Backstreet: The Musical

G. Vennes

Far back row in window: Carolyn Freeman Champ; Back row (l to r): Vanessa Cate, James Hassett, Lauren Marr; Front (l to r): Arielle Max Davidson, Melissa Gentry

In true vaudeville musical revue style, the Santa Monica Playhouse presents Backstreet: The Musical a song and dance extravaganza. Complete with vintage period costumes, an elaborate set that wows its audience, in a quite cozy venue, this show is a crowd-pleaser, with shades of Hello Dolly, Yentl, and Fiddler on the Roof. Backstreet is a return engagement, as part of the Playhouse’s 50th Anniversary Festival of Theatre, after a successful run in 1998. The show is a compelling look at the Jewish immigrant women’s experience, set against the backdrop of the women’s rights movement at the turn of the century, early 1900s, in New York City. The ladies of the Backstreet long for a home of their own, and share their stories, secrets and souls as “working girls” in a downtown bordello, hoping for a better life for their youngest maiden, Rivkele.

Like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the show is primarily presented and performed musically, with one memorable number sung by Rivkele (Serena Dolinsky), Eli (Brad Geyer), and Tante Lilya (Evelyn Rudie) in operetta style, much like Gilbert and Sullivan.

The colorful entourage of singers and dancers prove that burlesque type theatre is alive and well. Stories of love, survival, family, roots, and tradition is shared in Backstreet, evoking vivid images of the time, expressed by authors, the likes of Sholom Aleichem, Belva Plain (Evergreen), Henry Roth (Call it Sleep), and Sydney Taylor (All of a Kind Family). Such stories are universal, from generation to generation.

Backstreet: The Musical
Through June 20
Sat. 8 p.m.
Sun. 6 p.m.
1211 4th St., Santa Monica
(310) 394-9779

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