Review: Tovah Feldshuh embodies a leader and a nation in “Golda’s Balcony” at the Segal

Broadway's longest-running one-woman show comes to Montreal this season in a riveting production featuring the award-winning stage and screen veteran

Tovah Feldshuh in Golda’s Balcony (Photo by Aaron Epstein)

Legend meets legend in The Segal Centre for Performing Arts’ riveting season closer. Most recently gracing the stage and screen on The Walking Dead, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and the Broadway hit musical Pippin, the four-time Tony® and two-time Emmy® Award-nominated Tovah Feldshuh appears before Montreal audiences from May 22nd to June 10th in a tour de force portrayal of one of the most fascinating female rulers of the 20th century.

Currently holding the record for the longest-running one-woman show in the history of the Great White Way, Golda’s Balcony is the resilient biographical piece by William Gibson that depicts the spectacular political career of Golda Meir, the first and only female Prime Minister of Israel.

The historically rich play – a crash course in the creation of the Middle Eastern nation that interweaves dramatized confessionals from Meir’s personal life – humanizes the politician at its centre as a complex figure navigating the rocky waters of democracy while striving to build and balance a family life. It’s a gripping story of power and moral choice, one that evidences that the isolating view from the high-rising “balcony” can be indeed as daunting as it is magnificent.

Tovah Feldshuh in “Golda’s Balcony” (Photo by Aaron Epstein)

We here meet Meir in her terminal years as she recounts her extraordinary journey to leadership. Born in Kiev in 1898 and raised in Milwaukee, Meir recollects manifesting her characteristic chutzpah early on in rebelling against her traditional Jewish parents’ wishes for her to abandon school and get married. She thus flees their home to live with her sister, Sheyna, in Denver. There, she embraces the Zionist movement and meets her husband, Morris, with whom she immigrates to Palestine in 1921 and has two children before undertaking the duties of office.

Golda’s Balcony moves swiftly, dancing through Meir’s personal and professional milestone events with humour and suspense, and an atmosphere of intensity prevails. The narrative is punctuated by a pivotal flashback moment in her tenure – the sleepless night during the 1973 Yom Kippur War when she was faced with the fateful decision to sanction a preemptive nuclear strike against the Arab nations – a potentially catastrophic spiral into a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.

“What happens when idealism becomes power? It kills,’’ she says. “To save a world you create — and this is the terrible question — how many worlds are you entitled to destroy?’’

Gibson’s script is sympathetic to Golda, highlighting her paramount efforts and achievements in helping Israel establish its independence and ensure its right to survival in tumultuous times, but it also has her admitting to her shortcomings and failings in her “intransigent” commitment to her cause over her family. Paralleling the ascent of the Jewish state and its attending struggles for peace and prosperity, the story of her life and career is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking.

Tovah Feldshuh in Golda’s Balcony (Photo by Aaron Epstein)

In what is an intriguingly transformative performance (aided by prosthetics, wig, padding, and makeup), the fireball Feldshuh conjures the former PM’s strength, wry humour, stolidity, ambition, and passion. For a familiar part she’s been portraying on and off for 15 years now, it appears her effervescent commitment to the demanding role of “The Iron Lady” has yet to stale. Four decades of experience in the industry show in her exquisite, fully-realized embodiment of a remarkable woman weighed by monumental responsibility and abiding conflict.

Thoroughly commanding and charismatic, Feldshuh is “stage presence” personified. And, given her dynamite delivery of the material, embellishments such as the video projections and battlefield sound effects in her rear, even if tastefully integrated, are respectfully dispensable to the production – an observation which Feldshuh-as-Meir herself most amusingly makes. Golda’s Balcony is, indeed, a testament to the argument that all that is truly required for great theatre is a compelling story and masterful storytelling.

Providing for a thoughtful engagement and an enlightening perspective on the history of the Holy Land and its marginalized people, the touring award-winning production is an obligatory pit stop for Montreal theatregoers this summer. A number of scheduled performances have already been sold out, but few remaining tickets are still available.

The Segal Centre for Performing Arts presents


Written by William Gibson
Starring Tovah Feldshuh

When: May 22nd to June 10th, 2018
Where: 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, Montreal, QC H3W 1M7
Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)
Admission: CAD $66.00
(student/senior/under 30/industry discounts available)
Box Office: | 514.739.7944

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