Is it still a one-man show if the audience participates so much they nearly upstage the performer? A Jew Grows in Brooklyn, written and performed by singer Jake Ehrenreich, accompanied by a talented musical foursome, is a personal nostalgiafest, complete with slides of Ehrenreich's family. It gives him the opportunity to sing pop and Christmas medleys, showing off a voice that's been heard in the Rainbow Room, on Broadway, and at the Kennedy Center.
The audience gets into the act with enthusiasm. At the performance attended, they voiced the slogan for WEVD radio ("The station that speaks your language") before the performer even got to it and offered to share jelly rings and tissues with Ehrenreich, whose individual memories have collective power.
Sure, you're going to enjoy the show more if you're from Brooklyn, or Jewish — audience members shout out their neighborhoods — but there is resonance for a wider American audience, too. A child of Holocaust survivors, Ehrenreich was born Yankl, and like many children of immigrants, he was determined to become super-American. He watched Mets games with his father, who observed, "Two men play, and eight men watch?" Dad later went on to write the Yiddish lyrics for "Meet the Mets."
Director Jon Huberth keeps up an energetic pace as Ehrenreich mines humor from the changing times. A section on the Shoah includes a moving short film of the performer's father narrating some of his story. Much of Act II takes place in the Catskills, and Ehrenreich shines as the tummler (emcee) who plays Simon Says with the guests by the pool and sings in the club at night. His version of "Rumania" is energetic and successful. A Jew Grows in Brooklyn is a fun, moving show for those who don't mind a little schmaltz.
Presented by Growing Up in America
at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 W. 54th St., NYC.
April 10-May 28. Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 and 7 p.m.
(212) 352-3101 or www.theatermania.com.