LOS ANGELES (Apr. 20)
The stars came out for Israel’s jubilee. A cast of 21 headliners, backed by hundreds of dancers, singers and musicians, put together “To Life! America Celebrates Israel’s 50th,” a CBS-TV variety show that mixed historical reminiscences, American comedy and Israeli song and dance.
The show, which was broadcast in the United States on April 15, will eventually be aired in some 90 countries.
An audience of 4,000 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles needed little prompting to show their enthusiasm as the cameras panned from the stage to the audience and back again.
The show included a tribute to Jerusalem by soprano Jessye Norman, who was poised on the top of Masada, a hilarious “multilingual” monologue by comedian Sid Caesar, a touching call for religious tolerance by actor Kirk Douglas and vocals by Natalie Cole and Israeli singer Noa.
Actors recalled pleas for peace made by four Israeli prime ministers — Dennis Franz played David Ben-Gurion, Kathy Bates was Golda Meir, Dustin Hoffman was Menachem Begin and Richard Dreyfuss was Yitzhak Rabin.
Singers and dancers at the Shrine meshed with their counterparts at the Tower of David in Jerusalem, as co-hosts Kevin Costner and Michael Douglas alternated duties with Mili Avital on the Israeli end of the show.
One of the few awkward acts featured the actress Fran Drescher in a light- hearted bow to Israel’s unsung women, which drew on some hoary stereotypes about Jewish American women.
Outside the auditorium, a group of 40 demonstrators protested “50 Years of Israeli Oppression.”