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Tovah Feldshuh as Golda Meir
by Anthony Chase
The arrival of Tovah Feldshuh at 710 Main, the former Studio Arena Theatre, on May 8 is historic. The sublime actress, a four-time Tony Award nominee, has never performed in Buffalo before. She is coming to recreate her award-winning performance as Golda Meir, the Milwaukee schoolteacher who became prime minister of Israel in 1969. As the press materials remind us, “from the pogroms of Russia to the halls of the Knesset,” in so many ways, “Meir’s life encapsulates the dramatic story of Israel in the 20th Century.”
At the same time, Tovah Feldshuh’s career encapsulates the story of the American theater in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. If the first half belonged to Katharine Cornell, we could arguably toss the latter half to Ms. Feldshuh. Yes, there’s Cherry Jones, the astonishing dramatic actress who just received her fifth Tony nomination for The Glass Menagerie, or Audra MacDonald, who has actually won five Tonys. But these ladies do not perform across the country in the way Kit Cornell and the immortal Julie Harris used to do. Tovah Feldshuh does. In fact, she will be taking a few days off from taping her upcoming television series in order to perform in Buffalo—it’s that important to her.
As Feldshuh recently told the Washington Post, during the sold out DC engagement of Golda’s Balcony, “It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years I’ve been on Broadway—and 38 of those I’ve been on the marquee—you know Yentl put me on the marquee of the O’Neill Theater in New York.”
Yes, Tovah Feldshuh was the original Yentl—before Barbra Streisand. Like Katharine Cornell—whose stage roles were taken in film by the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Greta Garbo—Feldshuh saw Yentl go the Streisand and Golda go to Valarie Harper. Also like Cornell, this star of the stage maintains great affection for the film actresses who have portrayed her signature roles on film.
Feldshuh has done her share in film, on television, and even on the cabaret stage, but the theater is most fully and comfortably her domain.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post showered accolades upon Feldshuh for her performance as Golda, calling her “remarkable” and saying, “the protean Feldshuh radiates the intelligence and intensity necessary to carry off this accomplished portrayal.” Of the play itself, the Post enthused, “One-person shows intended to illuminate the achievements of a celebrated figure sometimes feel as if they’re skating across a thin outer layer of history. But not Golda’s Balcony, an absorbing, kaleidoscopic account by playwright William Gibson of the life of the first woman to lead Israel.”
Golda’s Balcony focuses on the events of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel came under surprise attack from its hostile neighbors. The annihilation of Israel seemed unavoidable and peace-loving Meir faced a series of grim decisions.
William Gibson, author of The Miracle Worker, crafted the script. The reception of his play, and of Feldshuh in the title role, was sensational. The production became the longest running one-woman show in Broadway history.
“Tovah Feldshuh gives such a fiercely committed performance that she does more than just resurrect Golda Meir: she embodies an entire country!” wrote the New York Times.
“Tovah Feldshuh’s marvelous, skillful portrayal of the indomitable Golda Meir will remain in your mind long after the curtain has come down!” wrote the Associated Press.
“It’s marvelous when an actor and a role that seem to be waiting for each other meet an incandescent embrace. Tovah Feldshuh’s acting fleshes, indeed souls Golda Meir out to munificent overflowing. Golda’s Balcony is the perfect merging of playwright, actress, and character,” wrote John Simon of New York Magazine.
Buffalo will only have four chances to see Tovah Feldshuh in Golda’s Balcony. Performances are Thursday, May 8 at 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday, May 9-10 at 8pm; and Sunday, May 11 at 2pm. Tickets ($42.50 & $52.50) are available by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000, online at ticketmaster.com or at the box office. For more information, call 829-1154 or visit www.sheas.org/710main.
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