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Grove Playhouse's Mittelman - Two New Theater Companies
February 6, 2008


Arnold Mittelman's American Theater Festival and the National Jewish Theater debut with "The Soul of Gershwin, The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer"

With decades of theatrical achievement to his name -- more than 40 world or American premieres and more than three dozen productions mounted on Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, on national tours and in regional co-productions -- producer-director Arnold Mittelman is launching two not-for-profit companies devoted to creating larger audiences for exceptional work while fostering continued development of regional companies and presenting venues.

"After spending the past year meeting with colleagues and industry leaders both here and abroad, I have founded the American Theater Festival to foster collaborations and extend the life of extraordinary productions. At the same time, I became very challenged by the role a national Jewish theater could play," Mittelman said. "Therefore, I am simultaneously launching both companies, The National Jewish Theater and the American Theater Festival, in a joint production of a show about the musical roots of George Gershwin that I once produced to rave reviews but, due to the constraints of regional theater calendars and rights availability, did not have the extended life it deserved."

The history of The Soul of Gershwin, The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer could be described as a "Rhapsody in Blue" - the theatrical concert featuring 23 songs by one of America's greatest composers left delighted audiences during a four-week sold out run in 2002 in Miami only to close and not be seen since. Now, Mittelman brings the original cast back in a new production that bows in an exclusive eight-show engagement from March 4 to 9 at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. For more information, visit

"I began to finalize the plans for the American Theater Festival when I was asked to present a workshop last summer for the League of Historic American Theaters," Mittelman recalls. "There are theaters throughout the nation that due to the size of their stages or the size of their communities have challenges competing with larger venues and other entertainment options. At the same time, resident and regional theaters face the challenge of extending shows in a subscription season. I am now engaged in developing a national model that serves both presenting venues and producing regional theaters."

As the joint venture of two new theater organizations, The Soul Of Gershwin features Michael Paul Levin as George Gershwin taking audiences on a journey through the musical and ethnic influences that stoked his genius to the accompaniment of a klezmer band and fine vocalists. Creator and musical director Joseph Vass and director Peter Moore are back with the original cast including Robert Marinoff, Bruce Henry and Prudence Johnson, who is a regular on Prairie Home Companion on the radio and appeared in the movie.