If there were any lingering questions about the Gershman Y's intent to become an integral part of Jewish Philadelphia's cultural landscape, next week's appearance by Bebe Neuwirth in a benefit performance for the landmark institution should go a long way toward answering them.
On May 23, Broadway luminary Neuwirth will take the stage of the Prince Music Theater to perform her one-woman show, "Stories with Piano #3." Renowned on stage and on both big and small screens for her acting, singing and dancing abilities, the Princeton native will be making her Philadelphia stage debut with this performance.
While she may be a stranger to Philadelphia's floorboards, Neuwirth is well-acquainted with acts of tzedakah: she is involved with numerous charity events each year, for causes such as Jewish institutions, animal shelters, artistic and educational programs, dancers' assistance and more.
This one-night-only event, which will support the general fund of the Gershman and follows last year's City Style fashion show and 2010's Joan Rivers comedy performance, is a natural progression for the Gershman, according to the organization's executive director, Sherry Rubin.
"The Y is in a rebirth" mode, she explained. "It has retooled itself as an independent arts and culture organization. We felt that Bebe embodied our new and exciting programs."
The money raised from the event will go directly toward supporting those programs. The Gershman currently has more than 100 programs a year, and Rubin is committed to making sure she is able to "price them so that people can attend" everything from Latkapalooza to the Jewish Film Festival to live performances like "Stories with Piano #3."
Fans of Neuwirth's award-winning talent (she has won multiple Tony, Emmy and Drama Desk awards, among others) will be treated to an intimate evening of the performer's interpretations of musical standards by Stephen Sondheim, Edith Piaf, Tom Waits, Irving Berlin and Kander & Ebb, among others. And no, there won't be any numbers from her star turns in "Chicago" or "Sweet Charity."
While aficionados can hope for another chance to see Neuwirth on a Philadelphia stage, it won't be anytime soon: She returns to New York to finish up her acclaimed run as Titania in a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" before leaving once again to be in the audience for another life-changing performance: her nephew's Bar Mitzvah.