October 22, 2019

The ‘light’-er side of Temple Israel of Hollywood

Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH) lived up to its name on April 28 when it threw a free biblically themed matinee musical, “Let There Be Light,” on Lag B’Omer featuring numerous celebrities.

The Sunday afternoon performance at the Hollywood Boulevard synagogue included such well-known names as Alan Rosenberg of “L.A. Law,” Keith Powell of “30 Rock,” and Monica Rosenthal, who played the character of Amy MacDougall-Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” After her brief appearance, Rosenthal joined the approximately 350 people in attendance to watch the remainder of the show, which was held in TIOH’s main sanctuary.

The show was an encore of the synagogue’s gala the night before, which sold out and drew more than 800 people to a performance of the musical.

“When we were able to meet the financial goals of the gala, we decided that it would be wonderful to do the matinee so that friends and family of the cast and crew could come to see the show, so we opened it to the community-at-large,” explained Jonathan Maseng, the show’s producer and son of TIOH’s chazzan and musical director, Danny Maseng.

The musical, written 25 years ago by Danny Maseng, tracked a handful of major biblical stories from Creation to the Jews’ arrival in Israel. The version seen at the gala and matinee had never been previously performed for the public.

Eva Bloomfield, who attended on Sunday, was impressed by the professionalism of the musical.

“Everyone was extraordinarily talented,” she said. “That was a synagogue experience unlike any I’ve ever had.”

Plenty of work went into making it that way, said Jonathan Maseng, who is also a contributing writer for the Jewish Journal.

“It’s a monumental effort to transform a synagogue sanctuary into a theater with full lighting, projections, fog effects and high-level sound,” he wrote in an e-mail.

One Hollywood star who was half-missing was temple member and “Star Trek” legend Leonard Nimoy. Slated to appear in the role of God, he missed the performances to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C. He didn’t miss any lines in the play, though — his distinctive (recorded) voice still boomed throughout the sanctuary.

The fact that Sunday’s performance fell on Lag B’Omer was fitting, according to Jonathan Maseng. 

“I don’t think there’s any better way to honor a holiday like Lag B’Omer than by spreading light into the world,” he wrote. “Especially when that light is based on
the Torah.”