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Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn – Through The Golden Age of American Yiddish Theater

Join Zalmen Mlotkek, Artistic Director of the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene and Musical Director of Fidler Afn Dakh (Fiddler on the Roof – In Yiddish), directed by Joel Grey, as he leads us on a one-of-a-kind journey of the Yiddish theater, from its European roots to Ellis Island, Second Avenue and beyond, joined by renowned singers Elizabeth Shammash and Thom King. The storytelling-in-song takes us from despair to hope to entertainment, and everything in between, with musical influences of operetta, Tin Pan Alley and Broadway, including chestnuts such as Rozhinkes mit Mandlen and Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn. The message is timeless, speaking to this moment with immigration hopes, dreams and desperation, the drive to make a new life in a new homeland and integration of personal stories with humor and poignancy.  Originally commissioned by Lyric Fest, one of Philadelphia’s premiere musical organizations, this show received acclaim as a powerful fusion of entertainment and education.*


Praised as “a mezzo voice that makes one sit up and take notice” (Boston Globe), Elizabeth Shammash has enjoyed a career that embraces many genres. Symphonic appearances have included the Israel Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony, Los Angeles Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra. Recital and chamber music have brought her to residencies at the Ravinia Festival, Beijing Music Festival, Tanglewood and Marlboro Music.

She has recorded extensively for the Milken Archive of Jewish Music, including Yiddish Theater and art songs of Lazar Weiner. Recent appearances at YIVO in New York City have included an evening of Hebrew art song and a concert of Yiddish art song. She is a graduate of Brown University in Italian Studies, Manhattan School of Music and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she received ordination as Hazzan.  She currently serves as Cantor of Adath Israel in Merion Station, PA and makes her home in Philadelphia with her husband David and their dog, Lenny.

Zalmen Mlotek is an internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music as well as a leading figure in the Jewish theatre and concert worlds. For the past 20 years, Zalmen Mlotek has been the Artistic Director and conductor at National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. He was the musical director and conductor of critically acclaimed, Fidler Afn Dakh (Fiddler on the Roof – In Yiddish), directed by Joel Grey. He brought Yiddish-Klezmer music to Broadway and Off-Broadway stages with the Tony-nominated Those Were the Days and Drama Desk Nominated Amerike – The Golden Land. He serves as Music Director for most NYTF productions, including the Drama Desk Nominated musical, THE GOLDEN BRIDE. His music can be heard in over two-dozen recordings and films, has taught and performed all over the world and worked with countless singers including Jan Peerce, Theodore Bikel and Mandy Patinkin. Mlotek received his musical training at the Juilliard School of Music and studied under Leonard Bernstein.                        

Thom King has an impressive and varied list of over 60 professional operatic and musical theatre roles to his credit, including Scarpia in Tosca, Rigoletto, Germont in La Traviata, and Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. He has performed with such companies as the Chautauqua Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, The Florida Grand Opera and the Connecticut Opera, , and garnered rave reviews for his interpretation of Peter Maxwell Davies’ challenging EIGHT SONGS FOR A MAD KING with Musica Escena in Mexico City. Since arriving in Baltimore in 1997 to serve as Cantor of Beth El Congregation, he has maintained a thriving Adult Choir, and with his wife Shazy has continually championed the presence of children in the musical life of the synagogue. In 2005, Thom made his debut with the Montreal Symphony as the soloist in Ernest Bloch’s SACRED SERVICE under the baton of Kent Nagano. As a composer, he has created numerous choral, solo, and symphonic works for the synagogue and concert stage,, including a Selichot service for Cantor and solo cello which he presents annually with eminent cellist Evan Drachman. Several of his original niggunim (spiritual melodies) have been published by Transcontinental Music. Thom is also showcased in a CD entitled “Thom King Sings Michael Isaacson”, featuring contemporary Jewish liturgical music. He resides in Baltimore with his wife Shazy and is the proud father of three lovely daughters- Rachel, Sarah, and Tovah, and two new sons-in-law.