Whew, what a whirlwind! We’re back in Savannah after yesterday’s Hallelu extravaganza in Atlanta and I’ve already made breakfasts and lunches for the small people I’m charge of, been to a fancy fashion show, gotten yelled at by a homeless person on Broughton Street, uploaded a dozen photos for my day job and bought a super cool pair of red tuxedo pants from Goodwill for three dollars. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I know you all want to know how the show went, so here goes…
Two hours before showtime: After engaging in a losing battle with a three year old about why she can’t wear her pajamas to the show, I shlep across the street to the Fox Theatre. I’m sharing a dressing room with musical director Merri Arian, who doesn’t mind that I’m taking up three spaces at the counter framed in lights: One for my make-up, one for my laptop and one for my neuroses.
An hour and half before showtime: Soundcheck. Joshua Nelson literally blows me out of my chair! I see a chair and ottoman at stage left; that’s my spot. Just like home, except no dog hair.
An hour before the show: Neshama Carlebach and I discuss the wonders of breastfeeding in the green room. She’s just left her 1 year-old son for the first time; I try to convince her that eventually, like when he’s three, he will drive her crazy and she will do anything to get a break, even if it means shopping at Wal-Mart at 10pm. She’s a fabulous, funny woman – wish I was in her mommy’s group. I eat a tunafish sandwich provided by the caterer.
Twenty minutes before showtime: I’m freaking out over this whole “spontaneous” blogging thing. I try to explain to Craig Taubman that I have control issues and this is making me a little sick, but he’s busy putting on a show. I am on my own.
Five minutues before the show: I refresh my lipstick and froof my hair. I realize I can smell the sandwich I ate on my hands, which disturbs me, but not as much as the realization that I have not fully charged my laptop. This will become important later, I think, but it’s too late to think. The stage director points to the chair onstage and I sit down.
Showtime! The lights come up, on me, I can’t see a thing. I start speaking into my tiny mike hooked to my ear (just like Janet Jackson!) but I realize my voice is not booming off the starry ceiling like it should. Someone hands me a regular mike and I start over, only a little farblongent.
Hi…my name is Jessica Leigh Lebos, also known as the Head Yenta at my blog, Yo, Yenta.com. Now normally I do this from the privacy of my own home in my underpants and one of my husband’s tattered Grateful Dead t-shirts, but since it’s a special occasion, being here at the awesome Fox Theatre in front of four thousand fabulous Jews, I thought I’d make my mother proud and, y’know, wear pants.
That got some laughs. I hadn’t been so close to my audience since my bat mitzvah, but everyone was so nice. I finished up the opening with a bit about how all the factions were representing in the ATL today and why we were there:
The wise people of Synagogue 3000 understand that we all have our differences, but that ultimately, all of us meet at the deep, quiet intersection of our one and only God.
I have to say, I’m shepping my own nachas for that line. Don’t know if I had the stage presence to pull it off, but by then it was time for me to shecket b’vakashah and get on with the show.
First up was Alberto Mizrahi, such a tenor on that man! His shtetl song was so moving, so lovely. With the lights no longer on me, I realized that El Yenta Man and the kids had found seats in the front row right next to me and Little Yenta Girl was waving wildly.
Then Josh Nelson was up (okay, let’s get clear here: There are two Josh Nelsons in this story. This one is a Jewish white guy with fabulously crazy hair and a penchant for kickass guitar riffs and Torah quotes. The other one, heretofore known as Joshua Nelson, is a Jewish black guy who shares a wardrobe with the artist formerly known as Prince and has a penchant for kickass piano riffs and Torah gospel. Got it? Good. Back to the first Josh Nelson.) He started with a choir of what seemed like hundreds of adorable Jewish children sending up a prayer that had to have the angels dancing on high – the Jews of Atlanta are raising a generation of mensches! Then Josh launched into a full-blown shredding solo, backed by the members of the Hallelu
house Bayit band. Smokin’.
Neshama was next and dedicated a soulful original song to her late father, Shlomo Carlebach, and her son, who I know she was missing. Neshama has a deep, almost purring voice, so hypnotic and spiritual. I remember thinking that one or two songs per artist at this shindig was way too little – next time it’s got to be full sets. C’mon, we’ll rent out a farm and have Jewstock! Oh wait, that’s right, Jews don’t camp. Anyway, my point is that I’d like to hang out with Neshama at the playground and watch her whole show.
My girl Mare Winningham came on after that, in full Jewish Cowgirl regalia, singing her sweet “Convert Jig.” I loved her opening greeting of “Great to see y’all again,” since all Jewish souls were present at Mount Sinai, even “Jews by choice.” She is just so lovely in person, tiny – I felt like a giant drooling sychophantic nerd every time I passed by her backstage.
And then the Joshua Nelson brought down the house with his kosher gospel crew! Seriously, people, if we had a dose of that on Simchat Torah they’d still be peeling people off the roof at dawn.
So much talent going on, and I haven’t even broken down the first half of the show for you! You’re going to have to wait until tomorrow, ’cause I got’s to get back to work. Rachel Leah Cohen has promised a photo link, too…