You could say it’s come full circle at Temple B’Nai Torah, as its production of “The Music Man” closed after a successful run for the past two weekends.
It’s definitely full circle for assistant director Samantha Epstein.
“I personally started acting when I was five years old,” Epstein said. “It was at this same production company — at my temple. And funny enough, my first show was bad. I then continued to do every single show. Up until my senior year of high school, every year we have done a musical at the temple.”
Temple B’Nai Torah, located in Wantagh, merged in 2018 with Temple Emmanu-El, which was in East Meadow. Both have a rich history of community theater, with Temple B’Nai Torah starting productions in 1971, and Temple Emmanu-El started productions in 1988.
The temple’s production of “The Music Man” — one of the first small-time productions since the curtain closed on the most recent Broadway run — began rehearsals in January, and counts 43 cast members.
“My favorite scene takes place in front of the curtain while Harold shares dialogue with Eulalie Shinn and the Pick-a-little Ladies,” Jeff Minkowsky, who plays the Music Man himself, Harold Hill, said. “It is such a fun scene and the Pick-a-little ladies are so animated that it gives me great energy to keep going for the show.”
Minkowsky, 43, has been doing theater for four years — all with Temple B’Nai Torah.
“There’s nothing like the bonds that you form with your show family,” Jodi Luce, 49, who plays Marian Paroo, said. “Some of my closest friends are those I’ve made through doing shows with the T.B.T. players. There are times when we laugh almost until we have tears in our eyes. Most of the cast has joined with their families, and my family is no exception. This year I’m the only one on stage, but my husband and two children are helping backstage. It really is one big family, one that I’m incredibly grateful for.”
Both Luce and Alisa Baroukh spent many years performing with Temple Emmanu-El before the merge with B’Nai Torah. Baroukh, who plays Eulalie Machecknie Shinn, mentioned that her favorite scene is Eulalie’s ballet.
“We have so much fun being silly and hapless,” Baroukh said. “Rehearsals are always fun. We really do enjoy being together and collaborating to make the show come alive.”
One of its younger cast members, Lila Minkowsky, 12, who plays Amaryllis, recalled a funny story of being late to rehearsal.
“I tried climbing the stage quickly, but I slipped,” Lila said. “I didn’t get hurt but J.J. Scotch — who plays Mayor Shinn — was definitely picking on me since no one else saw me.”
Assistant director Samantha Epstein, in addition to her own lifelong experience with community theater, can claim an acting pedigree through her father, Steven Epstein, the director.
“I have been doing theater for 36 years,” Steven Epstein said. “I tried it out with some of my friends in college and law school and quickly learned how much I enjoyed the theater. I participated in a few local shows and then joined my temple’s production of The Music Man in 2006 with my two daughters who were 5 and 9 at the time. We quickly grew a tight bond with the cast members and the temple show became a very special part of my family. I first directed a production of 12 Angry Men in 1991 and have directed over ten shows since then.”
Temple B’Nai Torah officially dedicated this production to Max Shrier, a longtime member of the temple’s theater program who died at age 92 this past year. He had been involved in productions for more than 30 years.