Mann up

Ben Fankhauser

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Mann up

Many college youth spend a semester or academic year abroad. Ben Fankhauser’s experience was a bit different: He spent his junior year on national tour for the musical, “Spring Awakening.”

“I spent my entire junior year on the road,” Fankhauser explained when we spoke last week. “But during the summer (before his senior year) I took courses at a community college in Cleveland, and then went back to finish my senior year (at Ithaca College in upstate, N.Y.) so I was able to graduate with my class in 2011.”

Fankhauser, 26, who grew up in suburban Cleveland, is now starring as songwriter Barry Mann in the touring production of “Beautiful – A Carole King Musical,” which opens at the Fox Theatre Feb. 23 and runs through March 6. The show tells the true story of King’s rise to stardom, from teenage exuberance to meeting her songwriting partner and future husband, Gerry Goffin, to her friendship with fellow writers Mann and (his songwriting partner) Cynthia Weil, to becoming a successful solo act. 

Fankhauser is the only Jewish cast member in the production, though in real life King, Goffin, Mann, Weil and many other songwriters at the time, as well as label owners, producers and promoters of late 1950s/early ‘60s rock, were Jewish. 

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The show depicts many of them working in Manhattan and developing what became known as the Brill Building Sound (though King, Goffin, Mann and Weil actually worked at Aldon Music in the building across the street from Brill).

“It wasn’t until college that I became aware of the Brill Building and (the nearby) Tin Pan Alley and where the new rock sound came from,” said Fankhauser. “It’s funny because a lot, if not all, these composers were Jewish at the time, sitting in offices writing for these groups that we all know, like the Shirelles and the Ronettes and the Drifters. I was familiar with the songs and the groups that sang them but not the songwriters who happened to be Jewish.”

Fankhauser, who made his Broadway debut in the musical “Newsies,” says he enjoys playing Mann because of his passion. “He has so much moxie,” said Fankhauser. “He says what he thinks. He reminds me of my grandfather in that way. He has no filter. He says what he thinks regardless of whether it’s good or bad, but he’s never mean-spirited.

“Like when he visits Carole and Gerry in suburbia and says, ‘This is the nicest place I’ve ever been with this high a pollen count.’”

For tickets and more information about “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” go to fabulousfox.com.

 

Award winner

We are, after all, in the thick of awards season, with the big daddy of music awards, the 58th annual Grammys, on tap Monday, Feb. 15, followed by the 88th Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 28.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to another award, one that I’ll be handing out from time to time, called the Good Citizen Award. From where I sit, this award is far more important than any other, and while it comes with no money, no plaque and no luxury goodie bag, it hopefully will be a source of pride to its winners.

So without futher ado, I am pleased to bestow the first Good Citizen Award to 11-year-old Noah Kleinlehrer, son of Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh and Rob Kleinlehrer.

Noah was at a Blues hockey game Saturday night with a family friend when at the end of the game, he went to the section near where the players pass as they walk off the ice. That’s when Blues right winger Vladimir Tarasenko handed his hockey stick to Noah, who was wearing the jersey of another beloved Blues player, Jori Lehtera. 

Noah returned to his seat but moments later, he went back to the section where he had gotten the stick and handed it over to a little boy. This random act of kindness was caught on video by Fox Sports Midwest, and that video has been viewed almost 800,000 times on the Blues Facebook page.

When he was later asked why he gave the stick to the boy, Noah said he thought it might have been his first game and he wanted him to have a great memory. He later texted his mom, “It’s a mitzvah.”

Says Hersh: “That’s just Noah. When the press (he was interviewed Monday by Fox 2 News) called and wanted to talk to him, Noah didn’t understand why everyone was making such a big deal.”

What Noah does want everyone to know, however, is that Tarasenko also is one of his favorite players.

To see the video of Noah getting the hockey stick and giving it to the little boy, visit facebook.com/St.LouisBlues and click on the “videos” tab.

 

Send me no flowers

Sunday is St. Valentine’s Day, and let’s face it, there’s nothing particularly Jewish about that holiday. However, the 15th day of Av, Tu B’av, which usually falls during the summer months, has come to represent the Jewish holiday of love.

According to the Talmud: “The daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed linen garments (so as not to embarrass those without beautiful clothes of their own) . . . and dance in the vineyards,” and “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride. (Talmud, Taanit 31a). 

Today in Israel, Tu’Bav is a coveted day to get married.

 

 

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