Nate Bloom blogs for this week's Jews in the News
Apple+—Another Intelligent Series; and the Tonys—Especially Leopoldstadt
“The Crowded Room” is a 10-episode series that begins streaming on Apple+ on June 9. The screenplay was written by Oscar-winner AKIVA GOLDSMAN, 60 (“A Beautiful Mind”).
Plot: Danny Sullivan (Tom Holland) is arrested following his involvement in a shooting in New York City in 1979. Interviews with interrogator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried) reveal his “mysteries”. EMMY ROSSUM, 35, co-stars as Danny’s mother. Rossum is best known for her starring role as Fiona Gallagher in the Showtime series “Shameless” (2011-2021).
British Jewish actor JASON ISSACS, 59, plays Jack Lamb, a friend of Danny’s biological father, and Lior Raz, 51, plays Yitzhak Safdie, Danny’s landlord. He becomes an important figure in Danny’s life.
Raz, a retired elite Israeli commando, was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodyguard for a few years in the ‘90s. He lives in Israel with his wife and children.
The Tony Awards will be broadcast (CBS) on Sunday, Jun 11, at 8PM. This year’s awards will stand-out in your memory if the best play nominee, “Leopoldstadt”, wins the best new play Tony (it’s the heavy favorite) and goes on to be turned into a top-notch streaming series.
I am getting ahead of myself. “Leopoldstat” follows an (extended) upper-class Austrian Jewish family from 1899 to 1955. The main scenes are in 1899, 1924, 1938 (right after the Nazi takeover), and in 1955. About 35 family members are in the three first scenes. The last scene features the three family members who survived the Holocaust.
“Leopoldstat” is “one of a kind”---while the play has some humor, an expensive play (35 actors!!!) that addresses grim topics like anti-Semitism, Jewish assimilation, and the Holocaust, is not likely to be mounted again in London and on Broadway. “Leopoldstadt” was staged because its playwright, Sir TOM STOPPARD, 85, is universally viewed as the best living English playwright----and his “Leopoldstadt” script is as good as any he’s ever wrote.
Stoppard didn’t find out that he is the son of two Jews until the early 1990s. His parents were non-observant Czech Jews. His father, EUGEN STRAUSSLER, a company doctor, was sent to Singapore, by his company, when the Nazis took over (1938) Czechoslovakia. He was accompanied by his wife, MARTHA, and his sons, Tom, then about a year old, and PETER, 3.
Japan entered WWII in 1941 and attacked Singapore. Martha and the boys fled to India. Eugen stayed-on to help the British army and was killed. In India, Martha met a non-Jewish British officer. She married him and he adopted the boys. He raised them in the U.K. as “proper Englishmen”.
Martha kept the secret of her Jewish background from Tom for her entire life. He had suspicions, and asked some questions, but Martha would never open up. In the early 1990s, Czech Jewish cousins finally contacted their famous playwright cousin. One cousin showed Sir Tom photos of Martha with her Jewish relatives. He learned that all four of his grandparents died in the camps.
In recent interviews, Stoppard said that he was partially at fault for not learning his origins before he did. He added that a character in the 1955 segment of his play—a character who didn’t know anything about his Jewish family’s fate—is somewhat based on him.
The big news is that there is a strong possibility that ’‘Leopoldstadt” will become a limited streaming series. STEVEN SPIELBERG, 76, will produce, and PATRICK MARBER,58, is rumored to be set as the director. He directed the stage versions and is nominated for the best director Tony.
If a series is made, it should be something really special and millions will see “Leopoldstadt”. The writer’s strike is making everything uncertain now.
Here are the other Jewish Tony nominees: Best new musical: “New York, New York” (music by JOHN KANDER, 96) AND “Some Like it Hot” (music by MARC SHAIMAN, 63); Best Musical Revival (all four nominees were written by Jews): “Into the Woods” & “Sweeney Todd”—songs by STEPHEN SONDHEIM; “Camelot”, songs by ALAN J. LERNER and FREDERICK LOEWE; and “Parade” (about the lynching of Jewish businessman LEO FRANK in 1915); songs by JASON ROBERT BROWN, 52.
Lead actress, play: JESSICA HECHT, 57, “Summer, 1976”; Lead actress, musical: MICAELA DIAMOND, 23, “Parade”. She plays LILLIAN, Leo Frank’s wife; Lead actor, musical: BEN PLATT, 29, “Parade”. He plays Leo Frank; Featured actress, musical: JULIA LESTER, 22, “Into the Woods”; Featured actor, play: BRANDON URANOWITZ, 36, “Leopoldstadt”; Best director, play: Patrick Marber, “Leopoldstadt”; Best original score, Marc Shaiman, “Some Like it Hot”; AND JEANINE TESORI, 61, “Kimberly Akimbo”.