SPRINGFIELD, NJ — Diane Cypkin will present a musical tribute to Molly Picon, widely recognized as the first lady of the Yiddish Stage during its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2 p.m. at the Springfield Free Public Library, 66 Mountain Ave.
In this hour-long presentation, part cabaret, part classroom, Cypkin will trace the highlights of Picon’s lengthy career from the Yiddish stage to English-language films through songs popularized by her.
Between singing some of the tangos, waltzes and fox trots popularized and often co-written by Picon, Cypkin will also weave in highlights of her life, including her serendipitous meeting with Jacob Kalich, the man who would make her a star. Cypkin will also discuss the making of “Yankele,” Picon’s first Yiddish musical and its successful European tour, culminating in her conquering the New York Yiddish stage in 1923. She will then trace Picon’s career to “Yidl mitn Fidl,” the most successful Yiddish film ever made, to her appearances on Yiddish radio. Cypkin will also track Picon’s English language successes, from her breakthrough in 1961’s “Milk and Honey” to her role as Yente the Matchmaker in the 1971 film version of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Cypkin’s set list includes the following favorites:
• “Abi Gezunt” – As Long As You’re Well – lyrics, Molly Picon; music, Abraham Ellstein;
• “Oib Sis Gewehn Git Far Mein Mamen Is Es Gut Far Mir” – If It Was Good Enough for My Mother It’s Good Enough for Me – lyrics, Molly Picon; music, Joseph Rumshinsky;
• “In Meine Augen Bistu Shein” – In My Eyes You’re Beautiful – lyrics, Molly Picon and N. Stuchkoff; music, Joseph Rumshinsky;
• “Oyg’n” – Eyes – lyrics, Molly Picon; music, Abraham Ellstein;
• “Yidl Mitn Fidl” – The Jew with his Fiddle – lyrics, Itsik Manger; music, Abraham Ellstein;
• “Oy Mame, Bin Ikh Farlibt” – Oh Mama, I’m in Love – lyrics and music, Abraham Ellstein;
• “Farges Mikh Nit” – Don’t Forget Me – lyrics, Jacob Jacobs; music, Abraham Ellstein;
• “Maz’l” – Luck – lyrics, Molly Picon; music, Abraham Ellstein;
• “Sunrise, Sunset” – lyrics, Sheldon Harnick; music, Jerry Bock;
In addition, Cypkin’s accompanist, Lena Panfilova, will perform instrumental renditions of:
• “Ikh Zing” – I Sing – lyrics, Molly Picon; music, Abraham Ellstein;
• “Libe” – Love – lyrics, Molly Picon; music, Abraham Ellstein; and
• “To Life!” – lyrics, Sheldon Harnick; music, Jerry Bock.
Cypkin is a professor emerita at Pace University and currently an adjunct professor at Hofstra University in the Writing Studies and Rhetoric Department. An expert on Picon and the Yiddish stage, Cypkin curated a well-received exhibition at Lincoln Center on Picon. For several years, she was Yiddish Theatre consultant at the museum of the city of New York and curated the highly successful exhibition, “A Celebration: 100 years of Yiddish Theatre in New York.” She has appeared in Yiddish language musicals for more than two decades. In addition, Cypkin has worked in the English-speaking theater as both singer and actor in shows at the Soho Repertory Theatre, the New York Theatre Workshop, the Jan Hus Playhouse and the Three Muses Theatre. She has also directed productions of The World of Sholom Aleichem, The Theatre of Peretz and Green Fields. She has presented her “Molly Picon and Songs of World War II” shows throughout the tri-state area.
Panfilova is a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory. She has performed as a collaborative pianist with many musicians and has given numerous solo and chamber concerts in Russia, across Europe and in America. A dedicated teacher for many years, Panfilova is exceptionally proud of her numerous talented students.
Photo Courtesy of Dale Spindel