Feldshuh’s Fountain Of Youth
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Feldshuh’s Fountain Of Youth

Ted Merwin’s column appears monthly. He writes about theater for the paper and is the author of the award-winning “Pastrami on Rye,” a history of the Jewish deli.

I’m discarding linear time,” Tovah Feldshuh, the four-time Tony nominee, tells The Jewish Week, sounding as if she had a role as one of Eddie Redmayne’s professors in the physics-heavy “The Theory of Everything.”

Ponce de Leon may have been searching for the Fountain of Youth when he discovered Florida in 1513, but for Feldshuh, 62, the secret to staying young is simply refusing to get old. She said as much as she prepares to present her new cabaret show “Aging is Optional,” at 54 Below this weekend ($60-$105, plus a $25 food/beverage minimum; 54below.com).

“My act was born from the natural human love of life and desire to live fully until we leave our bodies and go into another dimension,” Feldshuh says. She calls “Aging is Optional” her “most personal show” because she has “arrived at the quadrant of my life when both my parents are gone.”

Among the songs that she will present are Dar Williams’ “When I Was a Boy,” Josef Myrow and Mack Gordon’s “You Make Me Feel So Young,” Judy Collins’ “Secret Gardens,” Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh’s “I’m Flying.” and Stephen Schwartz’s “No Time at All,” the last of which Feldshuh sang when she replaced Andrea Martin as the fearless, trapeze-flying grandmother, Berthe, in the Broadway revival of “Pippin” that closed in January. Feldshuh’s own grandmother died last year at the age of 103, her longevity a product, Feldshuh said, of a “buoyant sense of humor and ability to delete that which doesn’t work.”

Feldshuh recalled that the show was originally conceived in 2011, when she performed it at a cabaret conference at Yale, as a more literal exploration of what halts the aging process—“exercise, vitamins and kelp,” as she put it. But now the show, she says, is “more metaphorical — it’s about how feelings influence the cells of the body, and especially the body’s immune system.” For her, Feldshuh says, performing is the “Restylane [dermal filler] of the soul — it’s a youthifier.” In “Aging is Optional,” she portrays several generations of her own family, including her mother and grandmother, to show that “you can be any age that you want to be.”

Travel, Feldshuh adds, also keeps her young. She flew back from her son’s wedding in Maui to attend the Chanukah celebration at the White House, and then went right back to Hawaii. And after the show ends this weekend, she will venture to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. “I weigh the same as I did in seventh grade,” she divulged. “I’m savoring every moment of my life.” She hopes to serve as an “emotional facelift” to her audience through her “authentic” storytelling and singing.

“Happiness in a choice,” she concluded. “What makes us feel young is usually what makes us feel good. Sometimes it takes the wisdom to age to know how to cap the fountain of youth.”

editor@jewishweek.org

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