You may not know this about the owner of Perfect Magic, Phil Matlin, but before there was a Perfect Magic he directed several Musical plays with his then partners, the late Walter Fogel and Sam Wollow. They had a company called Musicom Productions. The com has nothing to do with the internet, it was short for comedy. There was no internet back then, in the 60’s, not even computers as we know them today.
So Phil had some exerience in show biz and in 1971 he directed an original musical play which he and a bunch of fellow members of B’nai Brith Cenntenial Lodge wrote. I think they did it as a fundraiser. No one got paid. The title of the play was Trial By Jewry. The plot was this. B’nai Brith decided, as a fundraiser, to sell condoms with a menorah (Jewish candelabra) stamped on the condom. The sale of the condoms was a great success, but it seemed that the condoms broke and babies were born with a menorah stamped on their bums. B’nai Brith got sued. The script was great, the music was great, not original music but original words, and then came the business of performance. Phil was the director of the show as well as the piano player and there was a choreographer.
All the actors, dancers, and singers were volonteers, club members, wives of the members, people they knew, most of whom had never been on a stage before. They rented Rialto Hall for rehearsals. Phil had his work cut out for him.
After a few rehearsaIs I got a phone call at home from one of the wives telling me I had to speak to Phil. You see, they joined the group to have fun, and Phil wasn’t letting them. He actually raised his voice. They had to listen all the time and couldn’t talk to each other and it was no fun at all. I said, “If you have something to say to Phil, tell him yourself.” “We’re scared of him.” I had to laugh to myself. I said, “When you get on stage in front of a real audience, you’ll thank him.”
I never went to the rehearsals, but when the time grew near, I was asked to go to a dress rehearsal. At this point, all the tickets had been sold. There was no turning back. I watched the show in a state of dread.
There was no orchestra, just Phil was playing the piano, so the music was good, and the costumes were excellent, but…the actors couldn’t act, the singers couldn’t sing. the dancers couldn’t dance. I was ashamed that I had asked my parents to buy tickets and they did and now they were going to have to see this. My father would say something like, Oy Gevault, which is something you would say in Yiddish if you were really in trouble. He would not be able to sit through this, but the show must go on, right?
Opening night (it was only for one night). The audience is in their seats. LIghts go out. Phil starts playing Hassidic music, and from a ladder just off stage, a Hassidic guy, in full garb, with the side curls and black coat and white stockings, leaps onto the stage and starts dancing to the music. The audience went wild. And suddenly, the dancers could dance, the actors could act, and the singers could sing. My parents could not understand how these amateurs could put on a show like this. Neither could I. It was like a Broadway show. When they heard that appause they got charged up. No I am not prejudice. There happened to be two producers in the audience from Toronto and they wanted to bring the show to Toronto, but these were all working people and no one could take the time off, especially at the same time. It was such a wonderful moment in time, hearts were soaring, thanks to the magic of applause.