Iroim Katz Handler can present her Yiddish Clubs Association program, "Yiddish Theater From Purim to Broadway," buttressed by recent hands-on theatrical experience. On April 3, at a venue far far off-off-Broadway, she produced a Yiddish adaptation of "My Fair Lady" to a cheering audience of 400 senior citizens in Florida.
"A California club, the Yiddish Circle of the JCC in La Jolla, sent me a manuscript of their Yiddish adaptation of ‘My Fair Lady’ — ‘Mayn Sheyne Meydl,’" she recalled. "I loved it and saw its potential. I corrected it and together we polished the script."
After the California group had performed the musical in ‘003, Handler sent the videotape of "Meydl" to 90 Yiddish clubs. They showed so much interest that she then mailed out the Yiddish script.
The idea for the West Palm Beach production was hatched when a Yiddish-speaking friend who just happened to be a lyric soprano showed enthusiasm. "She loves to sing in any language, especially Yiddish," Handler said. "Our director was experienced, but knew little Yiddish. She had to lead the actors in the transliterated script as though it were a foreign language."
"I became the grammar and pronunciation police," she added. "The scene was transplanted from Bernard Shaw’s Covent Garden to New York’s Lower East Side in 19’0, so there was not a problem with costumes. Just a cart for Ester (Eliza) to sell bagels from instead of flowers."
Several women were cast in male parts, and when Tutvenig (Doolittle) strutted and sang "Mit a bissele glick" ("With a little bit of luck") or "Shlep mikh tsu der shul arayn" ("Get me to the church on time), she (dressed as he) brought down the house.
Troim Handler had planned to be the "Meydl" narrator in Yiddish and English. However, when one actor was unable to appear, between narrations she put on a hat and sash and played the role of the pompous Hungarian linguist at the ball.
There’s no business like show business — when flavored with a Yiddishe tam.