Nine finalists in the Professional Women's Theater Spotlight 2009 event will sing, dance, and act their way to stardom in the 4th annual Wanna Be a Star competition. The event will take place Wednesday May 13th at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem. The performers and audience are solely made up of women in a effort to cater towards religious needs as well as develop a more comfortable and fun atmosphere.
"The women feel more free in a women-only setting." said Naomi Teplow, this year's guest performer. The operatically trained Teplow recently released her third CD of Israeli pop, soul and ballads, most of which she composed. Teplow said she was honored to be chosen to headline the unique event. "Women feel they can dance or sway or sing at the top of their lungs. It's very real, heartfelt, producing a kind of kinetic energy that flows between me and the audience and it multiplies exponentially. It's important to find these stages because women don't always have that opportunity."
Teplow is excited about the organization and says she is proud to be a part of it. "It's only the beginning. There's tremendous potential for religious female artists.
Teplow was born in the United States where she received her classical training. Almost 20 years ago, she moved to Israel, where she now performs her own music and participates in various musical projects. A resident of Samaria, she is a choral conductor, leading several choirs for women and girls. She travels throughout Israel coaching choral conductors and lecturing on vocal technique. "Gone are the opera days when I felt I had to sing perfectly in the classical world," she commented.
"While I use my training, I sing straight from the heart and it's very real," said Teplow. "If it doesn't come from a place deep inside of me, it's worthless. When you have a women's event such as this, the feeling is particularly powerful. The audience gives back to me. I'm not sure if a man would get that kind of a vibe if he were singing in front of women because he cannot connect on that level."
Teplow says she will perform songs from her new CD Like a Rushing Spring, which contains Hebrew versions of tunes by Celine Dion, and Heather Small, a new singer recently discovered by American talk show host Oprah Winfrey. She also has a song written by the religious Israeli musician Aaron Razel as well as many of her own material inspired by Jewish prayers, and traditional texts.
Last year's featured guest performer was Shuly Natan, famous as Naomi Shemer's partner in Jerusalem of Gold and many other classic Israeli anthems. Another previous winner was Delia Spiers, a young immigrant from the United Kingdom who recently released an all acapella CD entitled Sfirat, which is intended to be listened to by women only. Spiers gave up a lucrative recording contact in England by becoming religious and coming on aliyah.
The cover of Delia Esther Spiers new all accapella CD Sfirat.
Spiers was a 2007 Wanna Be a Star finalist.
Other past performers have been a tap dancer in her 80's, a Eurovision finalist, Broadway singers, and performers of ballet, modern dance and other undiscovered Israeli talent. Other guest performers will be folk singer Sandy Cash, choreographer Avital Shwartz, the Orot Dance Troupe and past year's finalists. The event and competition is open to all women, regardless of age or religious background.
Proceeds of ticket sales for the Spotlight 2009 event will go to girls with special needs. For more information visit www.professionalwomenstheater.com.
For an interview on last year's performance, click here.
Ben Bresky is a music critic, blogger and host of the Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast on Arutz Sheva - Israel National Radio. For his blog and podcast archive click here.