American, Israeli Stars Joining in Televised Jubilee Extravaganza

Producer David Goldberg says, only half- jokingly, that putting on a binational, multimillion dollar, star-studded production means that he works 24 hours a day.

From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, he works on the American part of the show — and on the Israeli part from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.

The adrenaline-charged schedule means that “To Life! America Celebrates Israel’s 50th” is hitting the home stretch before co-hosts Kevin Costner and Michael Douglas open the program on April 14 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

On the following evening, the CBS-TV network will broadcast the two-hour spectacular to millions in the United States and Canada. Later, it will air in Israel and up to 50 other countries, reaching an estimated 500 million people around the globe.

The main roster of stars, announced last Friday, includes actors Kathy Bates, Sid Caesar, Richard Dreyfuss, Winona Ryder, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Noah Wyle. Singers Natalie Cole, Harry Connick, Jr., Stevie Wonder, and Noa, who is Israel’s leading recording artist, are also slated to participate as well as violinists Mark O’Connor and Gil Shaham.

More stars will likely be added later for what will be the single largest event of the worldwide 50th anniversary celebration.

Throughout the program, the 6,000-seat Shrine that will be linked electronically to the Tower of David in Jerusalem’s Old City, where thousands of Israelis will gather to both watch and join in the American performances.

One highlight will be an aerial survey of Israel that will eventually swoop in on Masada, where, in a pre-taped sunset segment, the renowned African American soprano Jessye Norman will sing in Hebrew and English atop the redoubt.

The men putting together the extravaganza may not have the popular name recognition of a Costner or Schwarzenegger, but within the entertainment industry they are considered to be top-flight.

Co-executive producer Don Mischer, usually in tandem with Goldberg, has produced the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies in Atlanta, the Kennedy Center honors, and the ceremonies attending Britain’s turnover of Hong Kong to China.

His fellow executive producer is Gil Cates, fresh off his eighth Academy Award production, joined by his associate, Dennis Doty. Musical director is Marvin Hamlisch, Pulitzer Prize winner for “A Chorus Line,” and head writer is Larry Gelbart of “M*A*S*H*” fame.

Altogether, the American and Israeli casts will include some 150 musicians, 400 choir singers and 75 dancers.

Most of the principals have been tight-lipped about the budget for the entire production, but according to one inside source, $3.6 million for the television program comes from CBS and $1.4 million from the 50th anniversary committee, via Israel.

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