On a snowy January day, Barbara Madgy Cohn was preparing for a tour group at…
The ABCs Of Alexandra Silber
The glamorous and beguiling singer, actor and author returns to her hometown for a whirlwind of performances and appearances.
Since July, Alexandra Silber’s gone from stage to page when the Grammy-nominated soprano and actress added author to her bio and embarked on an 80-stop book tour for her first novel, After Anatevka, which was fictionally inspired by the iconic and well-loved musical Fiddler on the Roof.
March 18 is Silber’s last appearance at the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts before heading home to Michigan for a jam-packed week that includes performing two Cabaret 313 concerts at the Detroit Opera House’s Black Box Theatre on March 24, teaching a master class at Wayne State University on March 25 and having a book signing at one of her favorite bookstores, Literati in Ann Arbor, on March 26.
“My concert was created specifically for this audience because it’s a history of coming home and my love for Michigan, all told through song,” says Silber, who grew up in Birmingham. “There will be a lot of classics, including West Side Story and The King and I, songs from the Golden Age of Broadway and an original song written from my book and based on Fiddler on the Roof.”
“Silber has an incredible history on stages across the world, and coming home to share her experiences is quite a treat,” says Allan Nachman, who travels the world to hand-pick the performers he invites to Cabaret 313, where he is president and executive director. “Her exceptional voice and superb acting will only accentuate the stories she tells.”
Silber attended Groves High School, where she was involved in the theater department. After high school, Silber ultimately graduated from Interlochen Center for the Arts and continued her training at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow with a degree in acting.
One of Silber’s first-ever roles was that of Golde, the Fiddler on the Roof family matriarch, on the stage at Groves. It was the beginning of a Fiddler journey that would seep into her life in a way she never expected.
In 2007, Silber played Tevye’s daughter Hodel for two and a half years in London’s West End. “For me,” Silber told NPR’s All Things Considered, “this character took over my blood and my bone marrow in a way that I had never known.”
Then, in 2016, Silber played another of Tevye’s five daughters, Tzeitel, in the Tony-nominated revival and 50th anniversary production on Broadway.
Besides legendary Fiddler lyricist Sheldon Harnick — who wrote the forward to Silber’s book — there are not many with the insight of the characters of Fiddler on the Roof that Silber possesses. “The fact that Sheldon Harnick wrote the forward to Alexandra’s book, that in itself speaks volumes,” Temple Beth El Rabbi Emeritus Daniel Syme says. “Alexandra is such an extraordinary young woman. I’m just so fortunate to be able to count her as part of my life. She has a gift for saying and doing beautiful things. And the book is really fabulous — I’m urging everyone to read it.”
Rabbi Syme tracked down Silber a few months ago after repeatedly hearing that there was a “Rabbi Syme” character in After Anatevka.
“I posted a story on my blog [“London Still”] about how the fictionalized Rabbi Syme is loosely based on the real Rabbi Syme,” Silber says. “It was coincidental and beshert that someone sent him the post as I was coming to town for a book discussion and signing at Temple Israel.”
That day in February at Temple Israel, Rabbi Syme and Silber were reunited after nearly 17 years, when Rabbi Syme delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Silber’s father, Michael, who died when she was 18 after a long battle with cancer.
“Rabbi Syme was a real advocate for my father and his human story,” said Silber who devoted a whole chapter in After Anatevka about the fictional Rabbi Syme, artistically represented as Perchik’s teacher and advocate. Silber will feature the “real-life” Rabbi Syme in her upcoming memoir White Hot Grief Parade, due out in July.
“Rabbi Syme gave me the gift of my dad’s eulogy and he set me on my path of healing and pointed me in the direction of my personal and chosen adult relationship to Judaism and faith,” she said.
Silber had a secular upbringing, celebrating the cultural aspects of all of the holidays with her Jewish father and her Catholic mom, “a mixed bag of Latin America and Ireland.”
“Now, I host a huge Chanukah blowout every year,” says Silber, 34, who lives in New York City following her professional start in the U.K. “I love the symbolism of Chanukah; it’s a beautiful metaphor of having no fuel to go on but, with a little faith, they do. Both of my books have incredibly strong Jewish themes — the historical fiction of shtetl life and what happens to Hodel and Perchik in Siberia after leaving Anatevka — and White Hot Grief Parade is about my personal origin of discovering Judaism, all set in Detroit.”
And as far as the real Rabbi Daniel Syme?
“I think Alexandra is destined for greatness in whatever she undertakes. I texted her that my wife and I are coming to her concert. I can’t wait to hear her sing.”
Cabaret 313 presents two performances of “Coming Home: Alexandra Silber in Concert” Saturday, March 24, at the Black Box Theatre at the Detroit Opera House. $25-$125. (313) 405-5061; cabaret313.org. Silber will read and sign copies of her book, After Anatevka: A Novel Inspired by Fiddler on the Roof, Monday, March 26, at Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor. (734) 585-5567; literatibookstore.com.
Julie Smith Yolles Special to the jewish news