Jake Ehrenreich's Journey of Self-Discovery



By: MIRIAM CROSS  
Published: April 26th 2010
in Culture » Stage

Jake Ehrenreich in A Jew Grows in Brooklyn
Pic: Carol Rosegg
Jake performing in A Jew Grows in Brooklyn
Pic: Carol Rosegg

The first thing you notice about Jake Ehrenreich is his eyes. Bright, vivid and almost literally sparkling, the warm and affable Ehrenreich doesn’t look like the kind of man who has carried a burden most of his life.

 

But Ehrenreich grew up with the weight of the Holocaust on his shoulders, as both his parents were survivors who immigrated to Brooklyn, New York after the war. He went through a period of drug addiction and womanizing, and watched his father suffer from Parkinson’s disease and his mother and both sisters struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He flourished as a musician and baseball player at a young age, but despite his popularity, yearned to distance himself from his family’s haunting past.

 

However, Ehrenreich was lucky in ways other members of his family weren’t: he found success as a professional musician and actor, appearing on Broadway in Dancin’, Barnum, and They're Playing Our Song, and touring internationally as Ringo in Beatlemania. He found love at age 40 with his wife Lisa, with whom he has a 12-year-old son. And with A Jew Grows in Brooklyn, his one-man show that became a smash hit on Broadway, Ehrenreich found a way to come to terms with his past and portray his journey of self-discovery with humour, poignancy, and plenty of rock ‘n roll.

 

On a recent Tuesday evening, members of the media and the Toronto Jewish community gathered at the Royal Alexandra Theatre to hear Ehrenreich share some of the lessons he has learned throughout his life and get a taste of his one-man show, set to open in Toronto on Wednesday. “I really wanted to be anything but like my parents,” Ehrenreich says. He describes his show as “a divine journey of self-discovery…It’s a Jewish journey, but I think it’s a universal journey. We all have things in common that I think keep us more alike than we are different, though the details of our lives are different.”

 

Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, Ehrenreich was determined to infuse his show with plenty of humour. Ehrenreich explains, “One of the things I wanted to do with the Holocaust was not make it so dark. It is dark, and I go there in the show – and that’s why the show is emotionally difficult to do – but I wanted to make sure that it’s really a story of hope, that we survived, we moved on.”

 

The show deals with some very personal material, from his parents’ marital problems to their different reactions to the Holocaust, and Ehrenreich clearly has a gift for inspiring people to open up about their own experiences. “At the end of the show when I meet people, it’s less about ‘you were great’ and it’s more about ‘hey, know what happened to me?’” he says. “So I know I got ’em when people want to share with me their personal insights like I shared with them.” In fact, Ehrenreich says that as A Jew Grows in Brooklyn became more successful, he started adjusting the show to be less about him and more about the people coming to see it.

 

Related articles: (stage, a jew grows in brooklyn, jake ehrenreich, one-man show, mirvish)




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