Jews in the News: Bette Midler, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ben Platt

Many Jews in Many Saints, Two Musicals, a Comedy, a Thriller, & More

“The Many Saints of Newark”, a film, is a prequel to “The Sopranos”, the hit HBO series. It will be released to theaters on the 1st. and, on the 1st, will begin streaming on HBO Max for 30 days.  The film, set in the late 1960s, was co-written by “Sopranos” creator David Chase (who is Italian-American and not Jewish) and LAWRENCE KONNER, 70 (who wrote many “Sopranos” scripts).

The late James Gandolfini, of course, played the series star character, Mafia family head Tony Soprano. Michael Gandolfini, 22, James’s son, plays Tony as a young man (about 18) in “Many Saints”.

JON BERNTHAL, 44, plays Tony’s gangster father, Johnny “Johnny Boy” Soprano and COREY STOLL, 45, plays “Junior” Soprano, Johnny’s gangster brother and ally. The role of Silvio Dante, Tony’s right-hand man in the HBO series, is played by JOHN MAGARO, 38. Magaro was raised in his mother’s Jewish faith.

A major character in the film is gangster Dickie Moltisani, the father of gangster Christopher Moltisani, a major “Sopranos” character. Dickie is played by Alessandro Nivola, 49, an excellent actor who I talked to years ago when he played a Jewish character in a little-seen film. Nivola told me he’s secular and confirmed that his father’s mother was an Austrian Jewish refugee. I hope “Saints’ is his well-deserved “break-though” role.

David Chase once said that he tried to cast Italian-Americans in Italian parts on “The Sopranos”, but didn’t hesitate to cast Jewish actors in Italian parts because they were “so like” Italians. This comment helps explain why so many Jews are in “Many Saints”. By the way, Moltisani means many saints in Italian

“The Adams Family 2”, an animated film, opens in theaters on Oct.1 and is also available via streaming rental on the 1st. This film is a sequel to “The Adams Family”, a hit in 2019. The returning (voice) cast includes NICK KROLL, 43, as Uncle Fester and BETTE MIDLER, 75, as Grandmama.

“The Guilty” had a limited theater opening on Sept. 24 and will begin streaming on Netflix on Oct. 1. It is a crime thriller. JAKE GYLLENHAAL, 40, stars as a troubled police detective demoted to 911 operator who scrambles to save a distressed caller.

“Diana: A Musical” will also begin streaming on Netflix on Oct. 1. It’s based on the life of Princess Diana. It began previews on Broadway in March, 2020, but closed because of the pandemic. It’s now set to open on Broadway this November. In the summer of 2020, a stage production of the show was filmed without an audience (that’s what Netflix will stream). The cast includes JUDY KAYE, 72, as Queen Elizabeth II, and as Barbara Cartland (a romance novelist critical of Diana). Kaye, a Tony winner, has an amazing voice and range and often sings opera, too.

DAVID BRYAN, 59, wrote the music for the show’s songs and co-wrote the song lyrics. Born David Bryan Rashbaum, he’s the keyboardist for the famous band Bon Jovi. He was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame with the rest of the band. In a 2010 interview, he noted that his daughters were bat mitzvah in his current synagogue, but he goes back to his childhood shul to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.

“Dear Evan Hansen” opened Sept. 24 in theaters. It’s based on the mega-hit Broadway play of the same name. The title character is a troubled teen. BEN PLATT, 27, who created the stage role, plays Hansen in the film. Also, the music and lyrics, as on-stage, are by the Oscar-winning team of BENJ PASEK, 36, and Justin Paul (“La La Land”). Sadly, almost all reviews are (surprisingly) terrible. Best to wait for it to stream and, perhaps, enjoy the songs.

The “Jewish showing” at the Emmys wasn’t as “bleak” as some leading Jewish media outlets said. Here’s the real back story. Emmy categories have recently increased the number of nominees. It’s this simple: more nominees---equals more Jews nominated—but also more competition. Here are the “tribe” winners. Some weren’t on the “bleak” lists--- SCOTT FRANK, two Emmys: directing and producing “The Queen’s Gambit”, the best limited series; PETER MORGAN, two Emmys: writing and producing “The Crown”, the best drama series; BRETT GOLDSTEIN , best supporting actor, comedy, "Ted Lasso"; MAYA RUDOLPH Rudolph, two Emmys—voiceover performance (“Big Mouth”) and guest actress, comedy (SNL), and GENNDY TARTAKOVSKY, the creator/producer of “Primal”, the best animated series.


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