First, it is not a movie version of “Golda,” the 1977 multi-character Broadway play by celebrated writer William Gibson (“The Miracle Worker”), which starred Anne Bancroft as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
Dissatisfied with that work — the critics agreed — Gibson returned to the writing desk, again drawing on conversations he had with Meir not long before her death in 1978. This time he created a play that, while laying out the span of her life — from her childhood flight from brutal anti-Semitism in Ukraine to her historic roles as stateswoman and premier of Israel — focuses primarily on the turbulent time leading up to and during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
And it was scripted for only one woman.
That woman was Tovah Feldshuh, and the play was “Golda’s Balcony,” which opened Off-Broadway in March 2003, sold out its 16-week run, and garnered a host of awards, including for its star. (A vastly different version — which Feldshuh had a major role in rewriting — had originally been mounted at Shakespeare & Co. in the Berkshires.)
Feldshuh went with the production to Broadway in October 2003, where it became, after 500-plus performances, the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history.
Feldshuh was again acclaimed for her portrayal of the “grandmother of the Jewish people”; she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress, won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and was hailed by the New York Times, which called the production a “perfect merging of playwright, actress, and character.”
And that is what audiences will see in “Golda’s Balcony, The Film” (not to be confused with Gibson’s 2006 screen adaptation starring Valerie Harper, or the 1982 made-for-TV biopic “A Woman Called Golda” with Ingrid Bergman).
The “miracle” of this version, said its star, began with the discovery of a rare, multi-camera shoot of the Broadway production. After being edited and refashioned for the big screen by director Scott Schwartz and producer David Fishelson — who found the original footage and to whom she is particularly grateful — reprising their roles with the Broadway show, and with video direction by Gerard Issembert — all “geniuses” — an “elegant, extraordinary” work has resulted, said Feldshuh.
While “Golda’s Balcony, The Film” may be a filming of a play, said Feldshuh, it plays like a film, affording those who missed the staging with a “you are there” opportunity. And for those who have been to a theater to see Feldshuh inhabit the persona of Golda, this is an opportunity to see the original iconic incarnation up close and personal, the way they never could from the rear orchestra or mezzanine.