Theatre – Happy Hour by Daniel Schwartzman

Written during my internship at Jerusalem Post in October 2012.

The Tel Aviv Community Theater (TACT) presents to you Happy Hour. A romantic comedy based on true events mixed with a little imagination of a thirty-year reunion for six alumni of New York’s prestigious High School of the Performing Arts set in a Manhattan bar.

Of the eclectic group of 50-somethings, there are old flames Will (Stephen Howden) and Andrea (Sandy Cash), unlucky for them their respective spouses are also present at the gathering. Will’s sassy wife, Lindsay (Rosa Howden – Stephen’s real-life wife) and Andrea’s husband, Bob (Yisrael Levitt) is a workaholic. Vinny (Philip Lehrer) is a trumpet prodigy. Divorcee alumni chairwoman Helena (Devorah Barenholtz), loud-mouthed big-hearted Sue, (Melisse L. Boskovich) and Celia the poet (Ronni Kives) round up the group.

The evening doesn’t quite turn out the way they expected. However, they leave the bar with new memories of old times, and their hopes and dreams relit.

Directed by Helen Eleasari, the musical is an autobiographical account of playwright, composer and lyricist, Daniel Schwartzman’s experience at a New York High School of Performing Arts reunion. His compositions are intertwines with Rosa Howden’s choreography.

The reunion, of which the play is based on, was brought together two years ago in Schwartzman’s honour as he rarely travels to New York. Twenty people came together at a Manhattan restaurant to sing, dance, and simply catch up. The emotions, which had sprung from the night, triggered something in his mind.

The name Happy Hour comes from many different sources. By pure luck, whilst walking home from the pub, Schwartzman walked past two people he’d overheard say ‘happy hour’; The event was held during happy hour; and if you dig deeper, Schwartzman applied it as a metaphor for the short time in life where people are happy – the teenage years – applied to our younger life.

The soundtrack, as Eleasari puts it is very ‘Stephen Sondheim-esque. Schwartzman told The Jerusalem Post the musical influence for the show came from Leonard Bernstein and, of course, musical legend Stephen Sondheim.

“Stephen Sondheim is one of my musical heroes. If you like Sondheim, you’ll enjoy the musical.” Schwartzman said.

Schwartzman’s experience with musical theater includes 25 years and counting as a board member of the Beit Zvi School of Theater Arts in Ramat Gan where he directs musicals and teaches acting students how to perform on stage. Happy Hour is his 9th collaboration with the school. Produced in 2008, His previous show with the company was Checking In, loosely based on his mother’s experiences in a nursing home.

The musical will run from November 29 at Yad Labanim, 63 Pinkas Street, Tel Aviv for one week only. Shows will commence at 8:30 on opening night, December 1, 3 and 4. And 6:30 on Wednesday Nov 30.

Tickets for reserved seats cost 60NIS. For group bookings and reservations contact the Yad Labanim box office on 03 604 1707 or 03 546 7404. Prepay via credit card Box office is open Sunday-Thursday 9:00-15:00.

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