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The Jazz Singer

Film poster

A musical in 2 Acts based on the play by Samson Raphaelson, and the film of the same name. Book by Richard Sabellico, Mus and Lyrics - various.

Jewish Repertory Theatre, Off Boradway - Opened 23rd October, 1999; closed 21st November, 1999 (8 previews, 22 perfs)


In Chicago, Jack attends a concert of sacred songs performed by renowned cantor Yossele Rosenblatt. Jack is reminded poignantly of his father. About to board a train for the next stop on the tour, Jack learns that he's won a chance for the big time: a spot in a Broadway revue, which will bring him close to both Mary and his treasured mother, whom he's not seen in ages.

At the Rabinowitz home, Sara organises presents that have arrived in celebration of her husband's sixtieth birthday. It is also the day of Jack's return. Greeted warmly by his mother after his long absence, he surprises her with an expensive piece of jewellery. At his father's piano, he sings and plays Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" for her, one of the tunes he will try out in the Broadway show.

Jack's father enters and watches Jack perform for a few moments. Stunned, he shouts “Stop!”

Jack tries to explain his modern point of view, but the appalled cantor banishes him: "I never want to see you again — you jazz singer!" As he leaves, Jack makes a prediction: "I came home with a heart full of love, but you don't want to understand. Some day you'll understand, the same as Mama does." Sara fears Jack will never return: "He came back once, Papa, but — he'll never come back again." The cantor slumps defeatedly.

Two weeks after Jack's expulsion from the family home and twenty-four hours before opening night of April Follies on Broadway, Jack's father becomes gravely ill. Jack is asked to choose between the show and duty to his family and faith: in order to sing the Kol Nidre at temple in his sick father's place for Yom Kippur the following night, he will have to miss the big premiere.

Dress rehearsal is at one o'clock the next day. Jack is told, "Come full of pep!" That evening, the eve of Yom Kippur, Yudleson tells the Jewish elders, "For the first time, we have no Cantor on the Day of Atonement." Lying in his bed, weak and gaunt, Cantor Rabinowitz tells Sara that he cannot perform on the most sacred of holy days: "My son came to me in my dreams — he sang Kol Nidre so beautifully. If he would only sing like that tonight — surely he would be forgiven."

As Jack prepares for rehearsal by applying blackface makeup, he and Mary have a heated discussion about his career aspirations and the familial pressures they agree he must rebuff. Sara and Yudleson comes to Jack's dressing room to plea for him to come to his father and sing in his stead. Jack is torn. He delivers his performance, and Sara sees her son onstage for the first time. She has a tearful revelation: "Here he belongs. If God wanted him in His house, He would have kept him there. He's not my boy anymore — he belongs to the whole world now."

Jack returns to the Rabinowitz home after the rehearsal. He kneels at his father's bedside and the two converse fondly: "My son — I love you." Yudleson assumes that he has come to replace Cantor Rabinowitz at the Yom Kippur service; Sara encourages him as a way to heal his father. Just then, the producer and Mary arrive to urge Jack to return with them to the April Follies premiere. The producer warns Jack that he'll never work on Broadway again if he fails to appear on opening night. Jack can't decide. Mary challenges him: "Were you lying when you said your career came before everything?" Jack is unsure if he even can replace his father: "I haven't sung Kol Nidre since I was a little boy." His mother tells him, "Do what is in your heart, Jakie — if you sing and God is not in your voice — your father will know." The producer cajoles Jack: "You're a jazz singer at heart!"

At the theater, the opening night audience is told that there will be no performance. Jack sings the Kol Nidre in the synagogue in his father's place. His father listens from his deathbed to the nearby ceremony and speaks his last, forgiving words: "Mama, we have our son again." The spirit of Jack's father is shown at his side in the synagogue. Mary has come to listen. She sees how Jack has reconciled the division in his soul: "a jazz singer — singing to his God."

"The season passes — and time heals — the show goes on." Jack, as "The Jazz Singer," is now appearing at the Winter Garden theater, apparently as the featured performer opening for a show called Back Room. His beloved mother sits alongside Yudleson in the front row of the packed theater. In blackface, Jack performs the song "Mammy" for her, and for the world.

Musical Numbers:

  1. Whispering
  2. Let Me Sing and I'm Happy
  3. I'm Sitting On Top Of the World
  4. Wus Geven is Geven Un Nito
  5. I Want a Girl
  6. Baby Face
  7. My Blushin Rose
  8. You Made Me Love You
  9. April Showers
  10. Mammy
  11. I'm Just Wild About Harry
  12. Sonny Boy
  13. Kol Nidre
  14. Play Me a Simple Melody Medley
  15. Carolina In the Morning
  16. Midnight Choo-Choo
  17. Waiting For the Roberts E. Lee
  18. Swanee
  19. April Showers