Playwright gives 'A Jew Grows in Brooklyn' a major makeover

It’s the 2.0 version.

So if you caught “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn” when it played in Coral Springs and West Palm Beach in 2009 or when it returned for a run in Aventura in 2015, then you should know this is an updated version.

Playwright Jake Ehrenreich’s overhauled one-man show is making two stops in South Florida: Feb. 2-26 in Boca Raton and March 10-12 in Coral Springs.

“I’d say it’s about 50 percent new,” Ehrenreich says from his home outside New York. “Over the years, because [the show] became such a success, it had a lot of ancillary projects. I got asked to be in a few [documentaries]. I’ve been in a few books. So I’ve done a million interviews. I found myself saying things that I had thought about after the show and all these other projects. Things would come out in these interviews and I thought, ‘I wish I could put that in.’ ”

In the show, Ehrenreich travels through time from the Holocaust and the heyday of the Catskills to the rock-infused youthquake of the 1960s and then on to Broadway in a nostalgic look back at this baby boomer’s heritage and how it shaped who he is today. The original “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn” was an off-Broadway hit in 2006. The show was adapted for a book in 2010.

“My wife, Lisa, looked at the show and … she wanted to make changes,” he recalls. “I said, ‘You just can’t change a show.’ But then, I thought, ‘OK, there are so many new things I wanted to say and do.’ … I thought this was the perfect time. So she said, ‘Take a few months, dig in and put in all the things that we wanted to do over the years and do it.’ So that’s what we did.”

In this incarnation, Ehrenreich (who performed on Broadway in "Barnum" and "They're Playing Our Song") has added to the narrative of being a first-generation, desperate-to-fit-in American his family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as many new videos and jokes.

“I like to tell it with as much humor as possible, so they get the story but don’t feel like they want to slit their wrists when they leave,” he says. “Like anyone’s story, sure there was disaster. But it also taught me to live my life with joy. That’s the universality of the show.”

Ehrenreich’s wife and friend Jon Hurberth co-directed the 2.0 version.

“My wife is sitting right here,” Ehrenreich says. “She says I’m much better now. Interestingly enough, that’s probably true. Lisa really has the best eye, and she also knows me the best. Jon knows me very well, too.They call me out whenever it looks like I’m not being honest. Sometimes, you put something in the show. … I think you put it in to aggrandize yourself in some way. I’ve done so many things. And they both are quick to say, ‘That’s not what the show is about.’ ”

Some of the things that he has done include appearing alongside Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Louis C.K. and Carl Reiner in the documentary “The Last Laugh,” which explores humor and the Holocaust. Ehrenreich was a guest speaker at a screening of the movie at the recent Miami Jewish Film Festival.

Next, he’d like to write a one-man show that starts with the birth of his son. But before that, Ehrenreich has to prepare for his upcoming variety/interview show on the Jewish Broadcasting Service, a cable station known formerly as Shalom TV. So there’s no time in the near future to return to the stage in a Broadway musical.

“I always think about it. Lisa looks at me and says, ‘Are you crazy?’ If it’s not my project, it doesn’t make sense to me,” Ehrenreich says. “It’s off the beaten track. I have a TV show beginning in the spring. I’m recording. There’s this old saying: ‘The good is the enemy of the best.’ ”

“A Jew Grows in Brooklyn 2.0” runs Feb. 2-26 at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real, in Boca Raton. Showtimes vary. Tickets cost $39-$65. To order, call 877-238-5596 or go to AJewGrowsInBrooklyn.com or SmartTix.com.

The show also will appear March 10-12 at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2885 Coral Springs Drive. Showtimes vary. Tickets cost $39-$70. To order, call 954-344-5990 or go to CoralSpringsCenterForTheArts.com.

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