May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Jewish Comedian Ashley Blaker Bringing Everyone Together

If there was any doubt about the unique appeal of stand-up comedian Ashley Blaker, then this week’s change to his upcoming run Off Broadway was compelling proof. Excitement had been building for weeks, but so many charedi Jews had been calling the theater requesting the option of separate seating that it has now been made available for some selected shows.

Even the British comedian himself seemed surprised by this development. “This is really incredible. We were expecting a very wide range of people to come, but we hadn’t anticipated so many who would only come if there was separate seating available. And I guess normally if it’s not there and that’s your chumra then you just wouldn’t go. But I am so gratified and honored that people felt moved to call the theater in their numbers and request it. How could I say no!”

The London-born Blaker is already breaking new ground. His is the first comedy about life as a charedi Jew to play Off-Broadway and he is the first Orthodox Jew to perform a show nestled right between the big hitters of the Theater District such as “Hamilton” and “The Lion King.” However, Blaker has achieved another first here. “Yes, I assume we now have the first show at which men and women have the possibility of sitting apart. I don’t think “Phantom of the Opera” or “School of Rock” have offered this. Try calling the Richard Rogers Theater to ask if they will have some performance of “Hamilton” with separate seating and see what they say! I can’t see Lin-Manuel Miranda agreeing to that one, somehow. Even then, kol isha is going to be a bit of a problem I guess.”

It is not just outdoing Miranda and Lloyd-Webber that appeals to Blaker. “I have always taken immense pride in the hugely diverse audiences I attract. I have performed shows in which there has been everyone from sheitels and black-hat-wearers through to the completely unaffiliated. I once did a show in Newcastle in North East England and there was a whole row of men from Gateshead, one of Europe’s most renowned Torah centers, and then in the next seat was a female reform rabbi. And when I came off stage I was genuinely thinking that there would be no other occasion that you would get these people together under the same roof. That really made me pleased.”

According to Blaker there are other advantages as well. “Well, my wife always asks me to explain jokes or repeat something she’s missed, so if your spouse is like that, sitting away from them seems like a great thing! Also, us Jews always like to show off how frum we are. When you’re sat in the men-only section and you see the other men sat in the ‘family’ section you’re going to know you’re really on a higher level! It’s probably worth buying a ticket just for the pride you’ll feel!”

And with the signage about to go up outside the Jerry Orbach Theater on Broadway at 50th Street, it seems the whole area is about to become a little bit more frum. Says Blaker, “Yes, I am very excited and love that so many people will walk down Broadway over the next few months and see the photo of a frum Jew on the awning. That doesn’t happen every day.”

Tickets for “Ashley Blaker: Strictly Unorthodox” are available from Ticketmaster, but those interested in attending one of the selected performances with the option of separate seating are advised to call the box office on 212-921-7862.

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