Philly Performance Brings Actress Monica Horan Rosenthal ‘Full Circle’

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Monica Horan Rosenthal will appear at the RRazz Room at the Prince Theater on April 30.

The Philadelphia area influenced Monica Horan Rosenthal throughout her career as an actress.

She credits Upper Darby Summer Stage with fostering a love of performing, as well as one of its notable alumni, Kevin Kane (now a lecturer at UCLA), who not only pushed her to take her SATs but also helped create in her a passion for arts education advocacy. The two created the Flourish Foundation to support and provide arts education programs in schools, and later she also started the Rosenthal Family Foundation.

She was a producer of The Three Maries at the Prince Theater in 2015.


She will portray Tessie Tura in Gypsy at the Arden Theatre starting May 18. Its director, Terrence J. Nolen, was her prom date. (“I don’t let go of people. Is that Jewish? I think that’s Jewish,” she said.)

But first, the actress best known for playing Amy on Everybody Loves Raymond returns to the Prince Theater’s RRazz Room April 30 at 5 p.m. for Full Circle, a fittingly named cabaret performance with TV presenter and author Nelson Aspen.

The two met while students at Hofstra University and re-met when Aspen was doing red carpet interviews ahead of the Emmy Awards one year and ended up interviewing Horan Rosenthal.

She grew up in Alden, Pa., attending Catholic school all the way through, “which may be confusing because now I’m a big Jew,” she laughed.

Her journey with Judaism began in college when she began exploring religion.

“My mother blames it on philosophy class,” she said. “I started exploring different faiths and also exploring Catholicism and realizing Catholicism is a dogmatic, doctrine-driven faith. … At that time, the pope said if you don’t believe all the precepts of the church, then you’re not Catholic.

“So I always told my mother I didn’t leave the church, I was excommunicated, because I did have trouble with Jesus is God and the whole messiah, savior thing. But like I said, I always loved religion.”

She met her husband, Phil Rosenthal, when she was 23 after he had seen her in a play in New York City, and they later joined a comedy group. They’d both been theater majors at Hofstra but didn’t know each other.

“We ran into each other, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘I’m a big fan of yours.’ Hello!” she laughed. “And I actually said to him, ‘I’m a big fan of yours, too,’ but I had not really seen him in anything. I was just taken off-guard.”

The Rosenthal family’s Holocaust history had a big impact on her.

Phil Rosenthal’s grandfather, Philipp Auerbach, was sent from Gurs internment camp to Auschwitz. A trained chemist, he became a doctor in Auschwitz. He survived the death march from Auschwitz to Buchenwald, where Rosenthal said he was called the “bone burner of Buchenwald” because he made medicine from bones.

After liberation, Auerbach became head of the Bavarian State Restitution Office, and was among the first to work for the financial compensation of victims of Nazism.

Through a job with an organization trying to relocate families after the war, Auerbach’s wife, Martha, discovered he was still alive and reached out to him. He wanted her to come back to Germany, as they had been apart for years. But she didn’t want to go back to Germany, and they divorced.

Auerbach was later found guilty of financial misconduct and sentenced to prison by five judges, three of whom were former Nazis.

He committed suicide at 45, and four years later was cleared of all charges.

Martha, meanwhile, settled in Washington Heights after fleeing to Cuba from Spain when daughter Helen — Phil Rosenthal’s mother — was about 10.

“So there I am, little Monica who went through Catholic school and was having crises of faith and feeling like I don’t have any religion, and I see this hilarious, adorable Phil Rosenthal and he tells me this story,” Horan Rosenthal said. “And then he tells me his grandmother doesn’t want to meet me because I’m not Jewish, and I was like, ‘Of course not!’ I completely felt for her.”

They eventually did meet at one Rosh Hashanah dinner, and she and Martha, whom she called Oma, became quite close.

She was drawn to Judaism not because of any pressure to convert but because of the curiosity Judaism invited — a stark difference from what she grew up with.

“What I loved about Judaism was the questioning, whereas in my religion that I had been raised in, it was not about questioning anything, it was about accepting from an authority that this is what is truth. What I loved about Judaism is the wrestling with God, the wrestling with the concept of God,” she said. “But I also wanted to study because I loved it. I loved religion, I loved philosophy, I loved all of it.”

When she and Phil got married, her mother was even the one who found the rabbi — a Reconstructionist one, Horan Rosenthal laughed, noting they didn’t know what the difference was at the time.

When Horan Rosenthal participated in a B’nai Mitzvah program at her synagogue in California and became a Bat Mitzvah after 12 years of being Jewish, her parents were fully supportive, though it might not have been easy.

“What you want, in addition to the spirituality and everything, is really that sense of community and being able to celebrate the traditions together, life cycle events together,” she said, “and I think that when you lose a child to another religion, that’s a big part of the heartache. They lost out on going to the kids’ baptisms, confirmations, communion — all those traditional things that bring the community together. But they did come to my Bat Mitzvah.”

They were just as supportive of her career, from the time when she watched The Carol Burnett Show and put on plays with her own made-up characters to when she got her first job in an off-Broadway play called Vampire Lesbians of Sodom to when she secured her role on Everybody Loves Raymond, which was Phil Rosenthal’s first pilot.

“I always say the fact that he was able to write it, dayeinu,” she laughed. “To write it and then they made it, dayeinu. That’s how it felt every step of the way, like we couldn’t believe all these things happened.”

The cast still keeps in touch, she noted, saying it was very much a family affair.

She is excited to return to the area for Full Circle, during which she will also learn whether she won a Daytime Emmy for her role on The Bold and the Beautiful.

“Whether I win or lose, I’m going to be able to make a big shimmis about it in front of everybody. I’m looking forward to performing with my old pal Nelson — not that we’re old, but you know what I mean,” she joked. “And to be being back at the Prince.”

Tickets for Full Circle are available at princetheater.org.

Contact: mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740

2 COMMENTS

  1. Monica and Phil are two very sensational and classy people I admire them both and I think the world of them both

  2. Are you Carol Grant, the casting diva?
    Phil and Monica have a warm non-pretentious charm about them. I have never met them personally, but they come across as lovely people, and evidently their wealth magnifies the caring, giving, and relaxed selves. Phil’s mom and dad are adorable. And Monica, what’s not to love!

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