Sitcom superstars, sultry songstresses, literary diamonds


Saturday

Bob Saget will forever be remembered as Danny Tanner from “Full House.” Now, instead of guiding the household with his wise advice and calm demeanor, Saget is exposing the sitcom family’s sexual exploits on cable television. “Bob Saget: That Ain’t Right” was taped in front of a packed audience at New York University and will debut on HBO tonight. His wildly inappropriate stand-up comedy routine covers such dirty ground as animal sex, snuff videos, prison and the personal sex lives of his former “House” mates. Although his sense of humor might make your rabbi blush, word on the street is that he is very entertaining. And a mensch.

10-11 p.m. Also, Aug. 30, Aug. 31, Sept. 4, Sept. 7, Sept. 10 and Sept. 20.

Sunday

You’ve heard of Christmas in July … now you can have Chanukah in August! Grab your gelt and head to Thousand Oaks to take part in the creation of a real holiday treat cooked up by Harvey Shield, Richard Jarboe and Chayim Ben Ze’ev. “Maccabeat!” is a rockin’ musical take on the story of Judah the Maccabee and his cooler-than-thou Greek rivals. Forbidden lovers Judah and Allura force two different cultures to confront and learn from one another. A heated battle ensues and, well, you already know the rest of this tale. Hebrew hotties, Jerusalem Valley girls and a biblical boy band — it’s the Chanukkah story like you’ve never seen it before!

Part of the Thousand Oaks Festival of New Musicals, Aug. 25-26. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. $24 (two-day pass includes admission to all four staged readings plus workshops, discussions and a festival party.) Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. For tickets call Ticketmaster, (213) 480-3232. ” border = ‘0’ vspace = ‘8’ alt=”Sophie Millman” >

Sophie Millman’s golden blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes and delicate facial features recall the old days of Hollywood glamour. But this 24-year-old Russian Israeli Canadian beauty is no aspiring actress. She’s a jazz singer with a dark chocolate voice that’s set to take the U.S. by storm. Millman is touring New York and California in support of her new album, “Make Someone Happy,” and the predictions from jazz critics are that she’ll be making lots of music lovers very happy. Swoon to this chanteuse’s infectious crooning in “Rocket Love,” “Fever” and the particularly meaningful “Eli, Eli,” written by the Jewish Hungarian poet Hannah Senesh, who sacrificed her life to save her family from the Nazis.

8:30 p.m. $15. Catalina Jazz Club, 6725 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-2210. ” border = ‘0’ vspace = ‘8’ alt=”Edward Schwarzschild’ >
“The Family Diamond” is a collection of jewels. Literary gems, that is. Early reviews for Edward Schwarzschild’s second novel, comprised of nine short stories, have been sparkling: “each story is as satisfying as a full moon,” writes one author. “An achingly beautiful collection,” writes another. To see the value of the diamonds with your own eyes, visit Dutton’s tonight and meet the author, his wife and maybe the rest of his family too.

7 p.m. Free. Dutton’s Brentwood Books, 11975 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 476-6263. ” border = ‘0’ vspace = ‘8’ alt=”Dinah Berland”

If you’re a (Jewish) bookworm, this is your week! Not one, but two more book readings are taking place tonight. In Pasadena, teenybopper idol turned television director Robby Benson reads and discusses “Who Stole the Funny?” The satirical novel parodies the world of sitcoms and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the ditsy stars, meddling money-men and sexual escapades that Benson witnessed firsthand while directing more than 100 episodes of “Ellen,” “Friends,” “Dharma & Greg” and other hit shows. Back at Dutton’s, Dinah Berland covers a very different Jewish topic: prayers. She’ll be signing “Hours of Devotion: Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers for Jewish Women,” a restoration of a cherished 19th century prayer book.

Benson: 7 p.m. Free. Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. ” border = ‘0’ vspace = ‘8’ alt=”Clare Burson” >

Awarded one of 12 Six Points Fellowships for Emerging Jewish Artists in April, Tennessee native Clare Burson is hard at work on “Invisible Ink,” a 10-song album of original Jewish music infused with Southern Americana. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t diligently promoting her recent release “Thieves,” which showcases her warm voice and songwriting talents. She’ll be hitting up all the big towns, including ours, this summer and fall.

8 p.m. $8. Tangiers, 2138 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 666-8666.

Tova’s Songs Good for Yiddish’s Image


 

As a youngster in Calgary, she was the Yiddish valedictorian of her high school. As a theater major in Edmonton, she was “the first Jewish Medea.” Later, she became known across Canada as a character in a popular prime-time drama.

Now Theresa Tova is Canada’s reigning diva of Yiddish song, and she’s on her way to Los Angeles.

Tova will bring her smoky contralto to Gindi Auditorium at the University of Judaism on Dec. 24 in a concert that will culminate the California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language’s sixth annual Winter Yiddish Intensive, “The Art of Yiddish,” this year subtitled “Knights, Mystics, Partisans & Scribes: Heroes of the Yiddish World.”

While not well known on the West Coast, Tova has a following on the East Coast, across Canada and in Yiddish and jazz circles. About 15 years ago, she began singing Yiddish standards such as “Belz,” “Papirosn,” and “Sheyn vi di Levone” infused with jazz syncopations and a sensuality that turns nostalgic reminiscences into walks down a dark street, and love songs into pillow talk.

“She lends a whole new image to Yiddish music,” said the institute’s director, Miriam Koral.

Tova, 50, was born in Paris, the daughter of Polish Jews. Her father’s family survived World War II after fleeing to Russia, while her mother, who lost her entire family, fought with the Polish partisans.

The family moved to Canada when Tova was a baby, and she grew up in Calgary, whose Jewish community was large enough to support three synagogues and two Jewish day schools. Yiddish was her mama loshen, and she attended the Yiddish day school in town. She then studied acting at the University of Alberta.

“I didn’t know I had a Jewish accent until they told me,” Tova told The Journal.

Her greatest visibility as an actor came as a regular on the Canadian series “E.N.G.,” a newsroom drama that ran from 1989 to 1994. It was during this time that Tova started performing as a cabaret singer.

She had a steady gig at a Toronto gay bar and, just for fun, would sometimes sing a Tin Pan Alley song in Yiddish. One night, a representative of a Jewish gay and lesbian group recruited her to sing for the local Holocaust Remembrance Committee.

“The next thing I know, I have these five Jewish matrons with bouffant hair sitting there in the gay bar checking me out,” Tova said. After that, she became a frequent performer at events for Jewish organizations.

In her performances, Tova mines the realism and grit of Yiddish lyrics. “I love the sexiness, the earthiness of this music; I love the stories,” she said.

Her live performances and two CDs also include Yiddish translations of American standards such as “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and “Night and Day,” cabaret favorites in English, and, recently, a contemporary song by New York poet Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, “Der Saksafon Shpiler,” about a sax player on a subway platform.

Tova has been criticized for giving the classic Yiddish tunes too much of her own sassy personality and musical stamp, but she replies that she’s applying her actor’s skills to the material.

“That’s the way I hear it in 2005,” she said. “Are we just historical preservers, or do we want to keep this language, God forbid, alive?”

Besides, she suggests, other people who first heard these songs as youngsters are willing to come along for her ride. When they hear the jazz beat, Tova said, “those old [folks] are sitting there saying, ‘Hey, this is a sexy tune!'”

Well acquainted with the Jew’s outsider status in society and acting roles far removed from her own experience, Tova uses Yiddish music to be Jewish and to be, well, Tova.

“I can stand on a stage 60 years [after the Holocaust] and announce who I am … we ain’t hiding any more,” she said. “To be able to come back to this music and back to who I am is such a joy.”

Theresa Tova and the Strauss/Warschauer Duo will perform Saturday, Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. at the University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. $40. For tickets, call (310) 745-1190.

 

“ART OF YIDDISH” EVENTS

The sixth annual Winter Yiddish Intensive presented by the California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language (CIYCL), to be held Dec. 18-24 at the Skirball Cultural Center and the University of Judaism, will focus on “Heroes of Yiddish Culture.”

The week kicks off with a Sunday “Yiddish Experience.” Each weekday morning will feature Yiddish language classes at four different levels of reading ability, plus two levels of conversational Yiddish. In the afternoons and evenings, scholars and entertainers from across the United States, as well as Europe and Israel, will present lectures and workshops on a number of cultural topics.

Admission is available to the entire program and any of its components. To see a brochure with program details and ticket prices, visit www.yiddishinstitute.org or call CIYCL at (310) 745-1190.