‘Old Wicked Songs’ takes the stage at NJT

Jerry Vogel (left) and Will Bonfiglio star in the New Jewish Theatre production of ‘Old Wicked Songs.’ Photo: Eric Woolsey

The New Jewish Theatre’s 2015-2016 season continues with a production of “Old Wicked Songs” by Jon Marans. 

The play is set in Vienna, Austria in 1986, where Kurt Waldheim is running for re-election despite his Nazi past. 

Stephen Hoffman, a young American piano prodigy, has traveled to Vienna to work with a renowned teacher, in the hopes he can overcome a creative block. Much to his surprise, rather than meeting with the renowned teacher, he is assigned instead to Professor Josef Mashkan, a vocal coach. Mashkan tells him that he must learn what a singer needs if he is to be a strong piano accompanist and ultimately reclaim his position as a soloist. The brilliant but arrogant Hoffman bristles, and the relationship is filled with tension.

With that framework, the play explores the developing relationship of these two men through their sessions together over several months. Although Hoffman resents having to study simple vocal accompaniment, he slowly realizes that he is in the hands of a master teacher. For Hoffman it is a grudging realization at best, as he and Mashkan approach each other from such opposite ends of experience.

The production is directed by Tim Ocel, who has additional directing credits with numerous opera companies, including Opera Theatre of St. Louis, with support from Music Director Jeffrey Carter. The cast features Jerry Vogel as Mashkan and Will Bonfiglio as Hoffman. “Old Wicked Songs” runs March 17 to April 3 in the Jewish Community Center’s Wool Studio Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. Tickets are $39.50 – $43.50, available at newjewishtheatre.org or 314-442-3283.