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Judy Blazer's Glory
Torch-hot, flame-flaring, sparks-blazing Judy Blazer brazenly lives up to her name.
"I'm incessantly frazzled," says the stylishly sizzling singer, with a song not only pumping proudly in her heart but boiling in her blood -- a fantastic voyage of a victory for those who like their music with pulse and promise.
And as far as voyages are concerned: Blazer's getting a ticket to take the A train -- no B-side for her -- as she joins the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and Darius de Haas in a salute to Billy Strayhorn with "Take the A Train," laying tracks for New York's Nokia Theater, where the 27th annual Gay Pride concert is set for Monday night, June 18.
As the world turns -- yes, she knows; she once starred on the series -- so does Judy, but perhaps with a little bit more speed. How else to explain her packing 25 hours into a 24-hour day that would even jimmy Jack Bauer away from his doom-and-gloom daily scenario?
"I'm always overbooked, I say yes to everything," she says.
Especially life: Blazer coats her accomplishments -- and there are many, including her current role in Alfred Uhry's Broadway love song to Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, "LoveMusik," at the Biltmore Theatre -- with a patina of patter that is at once disarming and enchanting.
She carries an air of an aria with an earthy goodness that comes from the familiarity of playing footsies with Broadway footlights.
There is also very much a "Jewtalian" tam -- a taste of her talent that sings of synagogues and sinfully rich operas. Pasta and prachas anyone?
Blazer bites at the invite. After all, she knows from both: Her parents, accomplished singers -- her father, a cantor, was a first-generation Polish Jew -- met in Italy during the war and wed in the Great Synagogue of Rome.
From great parents comes great expectations: She waxes lyrical about their ultimate love song, sung to the theme of tzedakah. It is from them, says Blazer, that she learned that giving back is front and center in life: "Tzedakah is the most important thing; this industry," she says of theater, "gets to be so much an ... industry. We sometimes forget the human aspect."
Not her; she didn't survive the "Titanic" -- well, the Tony Award-winning Broadway version, anyway -- with ice in her veins, to find out that sorrow floats: "My father raised me to be aware of the little guy," she says.
That's a tall order for anyone, let alone a star whose call-sheet calls for work worldwide. Sure, Blazer's favorite role may have been the Beggar Woman in "Sweeney Todd," but her career has never begged for rich characterizations. And what could be more enriching or ennobling than to cut to the bone with her "Sweeney Todd" character and inform on "the tragedy of the homeless" in doing so?
Isn't it rich? Her performance in "A Little Night Music" certainly was. But then this artist's crossing into the critical stratosphere is not the only heaven she's found on earth.
That would have to be the Artist's Crossing, the humanitarian and philanthropic teaching organization of which Blazer is founding artistic director, that harkens to the days when artists would learn their craft and covet their humanity in places that fostered freedom of soul and spirit.
It all hit home for Blazer, who recalls the blazing days of intellect and intuition that forever warmed the Montclair, N.J., mansion where she was raised by parents with a predilection for pairing arts and humanity as twin twists on life's meaning.
"I grew up with that extraordinary environment," says Blazer of being surrounded "by these wonderful Jewish European artists; everything was either art, humanity, family."
A triptych of triumph she relishes still; indeed, a scholarship has been endowed in her father's name at the Artist's Crossing, allowing his spirit to cross metaphorically back and forth between the here and the heavens.
In a way, her family also offered a perspective on the fun of fundraising, as they all helped raise money and sent it to hospitals and organizations associated with Albert Schweitzer, who would become a most unusual pen pal for the young Judy.
Out of Africa, into Montclair: "It was a great Victorian mansion," she recalls of home and hearth. "My parents paid $23 thousand, and it took them 35 years to pay off," but it paid off in unimaginable ways. "It was such a haimische base for all of us, and it was all about the arts."
And it still is; though Blazer lost her father in recent years, her mother still plays on. "She's going to be 90, and still practices her Chopin."
All within hearing distance of her son, Judy's brother, "a painter, a musician and a cardiologist," whose heart is also in the right place. "My parents moved out of the mansion and gave up teaching at age 80 to live closer to my brother," whose attention to them, she avers, added years to her late father's life. "They moved there to be safe."
But playing it safe is not Blazer's style. "I don't have children, but this is my way," she says of the Artist's Crossing, "to pass what I have on to another generation. It is all so much part of the Jewish tradition."
And such a part of her.
In a way, says the cantor's daughter, she feels like she's become a rebbe, with the Artist's Crossing a cross between bimah and Broadway stage. "I have a responsibility to say important things I've learned, to teach and stand behind" the artists.
And the artist who astounded audiences and critics alike in Michael John LaChiusa's musical take on Garcia Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, has her own house very much in order.
Certainly, her bio is crosscut with Broadway accomplishments, including "Me and My Girl" and Neil Simon's "45 Seconds From Broadway." But it is her humanitarian work that is mere seconds from her mind and forever forged into her heart.
Judy Blazer has a right to be, as she calls it, "frazzled." Such is the state of the un-stationary, those with the get-up-and-go to get things going.
Which is why, should you run into the 50-year-old boomer with a boombox of songs to sing and things to do, remember time long ago gave her the best permission slip of all to accomplish life at its fullest in a Blazer's glory: Green light ... artist crossing.
Info to Go
Judy Blazer and Darius de Haas star in "Take the A Train," a musical salute to Billy Strayhorn, also starring the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, on Monday, June 18, at 8 p.m., at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square. For ticket information, call 212-307-4100; for information on the Artist's Crossing, go to: www.ArtistsCrossing.com.