June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

David Zomick Marks 80th With Special ‘Megilla’

There are birthday parties, and then there are birthday “productions.” Forty-seven year Teaneck resident David Zomick celebrated his 80th birthday with both. In a carefully coordinated and masterfully executed surprise, the family joined to make this a genuine dream-come-true birthday for their father, brother, grandfather and uncle.

The ruse began, unbeknownst to him, a few weeks earlier. David related, “We all got together for a very special Shabbos, with divrei Torah, delicious food, games and presentations focused on my birthday. It was great and I thought that was it.”

Rewind further to circa 1980. “About 40 years ago, I asked my ‘little brother’ Elly (10 years David’s junior), ‘Hey, wanna write a ‘Broadway musical?’ He said, ‘Sure,’” David said, adding,

“I researched the traditional Talmudic and post-Talmudic sources [of Megillat Esther]. Those Midrashim and interpretations served as resources for my rendition of the story of Purim. I wrote a libretto and lyrics and sent them to Elly, who composed all the music, occasionally asking me to modify the lyrics to accommodate the music. We congratulated ourselves on having written a ‘Broadway play’ [Megilla]. My kids sang the songs, and we continued with our ‘day jobs.’”

Zomick holds a PhD in theoretical physics as well as an MA and MBA, with a distinguished career in leading aerospace technology. Among his contributions are the guidance, pointing and control system for the Hubble Space Telescope. Post retirement, Zomick has pursued interests in the visual arts and has won awards for both painting and sculpture. He is also a regular maggid shiur at Bnai Yeshurun.

Fast forward to Wednesday, July 28, at the Black Box Theater in Englewood. A crowd was already seated in the intimate theater: all family. Myril and David Zomick entered together from the back of the theater, completely oblivious to what was about to happen next.

They were escorted to center-aisle seats in the front row, the lights dimmed and the monologue began. Within seconds, Zomick realized he was hearing lines from his own play! He smiled and began to applaud, while Myril at his side grinned from ear to ear, and the family audience began to chuckle. The scheme was a resounding success, and the show began!

“Megilla” was every bit a professional performance, complete with an authentic Playbill, and the script an even mixture of scriptural/historical fact, light-hearted storytelling and savvy humor. The cast included a number of Black Box alums. Live music from the street-level orchestra pit was original and upbeat, with lyrics that were clever and genuinely humorous. Elly, a career music professional, dazzled the audience with his gifted piano playing. Well known and widely respected, Elly has taught generations of students on Long Island and at Camp Morasha.

As with the real Megillat Esther, the play proceeded to a festive celebration of song and dance following the downfall of arch villain Haman. The family audience was invited to join in the dancing, so of course David and Myril stepped up, joined by grandchildren and great-grandchildren, singing along with the cast on stage. It was a priceless moment of shared exhilaration, punctuated by the traditional finale including a clasped-hand stage bow of the brothers, playwright David and composer/arranger Elly, together.

The Jewish Link asked David to describe his feelings about the events of the birthday celebration. “It was a total surprise! Until my son-in-law dropped us at the Black Box, we did not know our destination. Until the opening line of the play, we had no idea what we were about to see.”

Asked what this celebration meant to him, especially considering what must have gone into the planning and production, David responded, “Surprise, happiness, hakarat hatov for an amazing family and a wonderful 80 years. It was a beautiful and moving experience, beautiful and moving more because of the care and creativity shown by our kids in planning and managing the event than because of the contents of the play.”

The Jewish Link also asked whether he ever imagined that his work would be performed.

“I guess I imagined it might be performed by some shul as a social event or fundraiser, but that’s not what really motivated me. It’s difficult to explain, but the exhilaration is from and during the creative process, and less so from showing and sharing the result with others, although that was nice also. When writing the play, I certainly never imagined watching its performance 40 years later, surrounded by a score of grandchildren and great grandchildren. That joy [is better than] even a ‘must see’ review from a New York Times theater critic.”

Asked to comment on the performance and production at Black Box Theater, Zomick said, “Two thumbs up! The producers and players seemed to actually enjoy what they were doing. They were not working. They were playing, creating and sharing their enjoyment.”

Jennifer Miller, daughter of the Zomicks and herself an event planner said, “Collaborating with my siblings and uncle was particularly meaningful. I was inspired by actors at various points of their professional journeys working together to comprise a diverse yet cohesive cast.”

Asked about her favorite part of the evening, she responded, “My father’s reaction was fantastic. He was happy but not in the least bit flustered. I was also amazed at how two of my young granddaughters were captivated for the entire two hour performance. Broadway potential? Of course!”

Karen Finkelstein, another daughter of the Zomicks, was thrilled with the outcome of the family’s surprise plan. “Our extended family members enjoy each other’s company, and my father seemed to especially enjoy the fact that his kids collaborated and brainstormed.”

Asked if there had been any “Whoops! Almost spilled the beans” moments, Finkelstein shared, “I have been singing the songs in my head and out loud as well. I was afraid my parents would hear, and it would uncover the entire surprise.”

Son Mark Zomick added, “It was amazing to see the songs of my youth, which no one ever heard, performed so beautifully.”

The clincher was when Myril Zomick quipped, “Thanks for bribing my husband’s dream into reality!”

The Jewish Link asked Black Box founder Matt Okin what most resonated with him about this production. “The reunion of Black Box alumni performers and directors, and seeing them on stage together again, some of whom were the inaugural students when Black Box first opened, along with newer cast and crew members.”

The Jewish Link asked Black Box anchor bass player Ben Shanblatt about playing for “Megilla,” especially with it being such a short run. “It was really fun and the music was great,” said Shanblatt.

Echoing Shanblatt’s sentiment was seasoned actor, co-producer and writer of the popular and well-loved series “Soon By You” Danny Hoffman. “It was great to be back on stage with so many others from Black Box, but a little sad to work so intensely together and bond as a cast for such a short run.” Hoffman, formerly of Hillside, played the lead role of Mordechai. He resides now in Paramus and runs the theater program at Frisch.

By Ellie Wolf

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