Belle Linda Halpern
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Belle Linda Halpern

Lincoln, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Lincoln, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
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The best kept secret in music


"Jewesses With Attitude-- "Cravings:" Food and the Jewish experience"

This weekend I went to the Central Square Theater to see Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction, a cabaret set in a Jewish kitchen that explores themes of hunger, success, acceptance, nourishment, fame, and sex. Cravings, starring cabaret artist Belle Linda Halpern, accompanied by Ron Roy, and directed by Sabrina Hamilton, was originally created to close the Ko Festival's 2008 series, themed on food.

As I entered the theater I was surprised to find myself in a Jewish kitchen. The only thing out of place was the piano. Belle Linda Halpern made charoset, and kibbitzed with us in between songs. She even called on Ron to help peel apples. As a Jewish woman, I found everything in this show relatable. (Except, where did they find such a quiet food processor!?) But what struck me most of all was the connection Halpern draws between the Jewish craving for food and the craving for success and achievement.

Halpern tells a story about starting a catering company as a teenager; both for the sake of her own career and interest, but also for her parents' approval. In a Jewish family, success means a lot. Success is a form of love. A good Jewish son or daughter becomes successful out of love for his or her parents, to honor them, and to give them something to brag about on the phone. And it works in the other direction too. Jewish parents want the best for their children. They want them to reach their potential, to be recognized for their brilliance and hard work, and to be financially and professionally secure. For Jews, security is safety, and that is just as important as fame in our cravings for success.

But in a Jewish family, food is love. I grew up hearing this constantly. My grandmother, a survivor, was never very good at expressing her love through words or gestures, but boy did she feed us! She seemed to take no greater pleasure in life than to watch us eat. Food is love. Success is love. We crave food the way we crave love, we crave love the way we crave success, and we crave success the way we crave food.

Cravings explores a number of other themes including nourishment and satisfaction, but the success/love/food comparison seemed to get at the heart of my own personal experience as a Jew. In the tradition of the Ko Festival, the show finished with a talkback with the audience. I was struck by the stories people shared about cooking with their grandmothers, discussing food, love, ambition, memory, and tradition. Without a doubt, food is the basic element of the Jewish experience. It is inextricable from our prayers, our traditions, our rituals, and as Cravings demonstrates, the foundation of our ideas of nourishment, satisfaction, success, safety, and love.

This leads me to a question. Many Jewish organziations, including Tablet and MyJewishLearning feature dedicated sections of their websites to food, discussing history, tradition, new developments in Jewish food, and recipes. Is this something you might like to see on the Jewish Women's Archive website? Could food be a more prominent focus for JWA? Should it be? (Is food a women's issue?) Please leave a comment, we are curious to know what you think!

Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction is still showing for another two weekends. If you live in the Boston area, check out the Central Square Theater's schedule for dates and tickets. - Jewish Women's Archive blog

"Cravings Wows"

Human needs boil down to a few essentials: food, shelter, safety, and sex. But it’s amazing how many forms of expression those basic desires can take, from primal urges (lust, fear) to more sophisticated ones (status, power, a feeling of doing something worthwhile).

Cabaret artist Belle Linda Halpern tackles all those aspects of desire in her one-woman show Cravings: Songs of Hunger & Satisfaction, playing through Oct 25 at the Central Square Theater, located at 450 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.

The title conveys both halves of Halpern’s opus, which is all about putting contrasts together and letting them wrestle and play. Though the emphasis is on hunger, the point the artist makes is that there’s an even more elemental drive at work, and that is the human desire for satisfaction: to feel nourished, to be accepted, to be loved.

"In my grandmother’s kitchen, love was food," Halpern tells the audience, and so it is that the show combines cooking, song, and personal anecdote, kicking off with the Cab Calloway number "Everybody Eats When They Come to My House."

The hits keep coming from then on with zesty accompaniment from Halpern’s foil and longtime friend, pianist Ron Roy, who delves into the set list (songs by Bernstein, W. Earl Brown, Rogers and Hammerstein, and many more) with the delectation of a connoisseur.

The sixteen songs included in the act punctuate Halpern’s story, which she narrates even as she prepares charoset, a Passover dish. It’s a novel approach: imagine Julia Child crooning to the camera and relating episodes like a first crush that goes unrequited (cue Stephen Schwartz’s "I’m Not That Girl") or a diagnosis of diabetes (a tragedy for someone who sings "My Favorite Things" with a set of alternate, chocolate-centric lyrics).

Child comes into the show by name, of course; how could she not, give the recent movie ("the Julia-Julia movie," Halpern calls it)? But long before Nora Ephron fused the classic cookbook and the Slate blog into a delectable film, Halpern was working her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one recipe (and, on occasion, twelve ducks) at a time, and pursuing her own catering business--though with a twist: she’d feed her customers, then serenade them. It seems that Halpern has been folding song into her gourmet fare for a while, now, which might explain the ease and sense of comfort she exudes: the performance space really does take on the coziness of a kitchen.

That combination of interests is one more way of feeding her insatiable zest; as Halpern has it, "In my family, you got love for being hungry and driven." But Halpern makes time to stop and smell the rose garnish: throughout the show, she adopts a variety of singing styles, from torchy to wistful to brassy and bold. But when she adopts a spiritual, almost gospel, tenor, the performance takes on a new and lingering tenderness; could this be the "true nourishment" Halpern refers to early on?

Maybe: "But I’m still hungry!" she reassures her listeners.

So are we: by the time the show is done, expect to be starving even if you dined beforehand. (Luckily, Halpern provides a snack.) Whatever you do, don’t come in hungry from the start, or this delicious cabaret experience will drive you to ravenous distraction.

"Cravings: Songs of Hunger & Satisfaction" plays through Oct. 25 at the Central Square Theater, located at 450 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.

Tickets cost $35 ($25 for seniors and $20 for students; student rush tickets also available for $15 the day of the show; valid ID required) and can be obtained online at, at the Central Square Theater box office, or via telephone at 866-811-4111 866-811-4111 .

Performance schedule: Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday matiness at 2:00 p.m.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

"'Cravings' nourishes both body and soul"

Belle Linda Halpern believes "that how we eat determines what we are."

The veteran Boston-born Jewish performer - "N (Bonaparte)" at the Pilgrim Theatre (2006); "Esther" at the Jewish Theatre of New England (1989) - has taken to the stage in Cambridge to prove her point. Halpern prepares traditional food while singing about family heritage and individual identity in "Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction," the inaugural offering of Central Square Theatre's Cabaret Series.
In an interview, Halpern traces the show back to her mother's mother, Ida R. Goldstein, in whose memory she has dedicated "Cravings." Halpern called her grandmother, who lived in Orange, N.J., "an incredible force in my life" and "a real balabusta" (accomplished housewife and handywoman). In Halpern's family, the cooking gene skipped a generation, so Goldstein became her kitchen mentor. "My mother's rebellion was not to cook," Halpern said. "My rebellion was to cook."

At age 14, she began her culinary adventures with Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Two years later, Halpern launched her own catering company, Sing for Your Supper. As the name suggests, she would cook and croon.

Now, with her multi-task show, art imitates life. Halpern ranges from a sassy delivery of Cab Calloway's "Everybody Eats When They Come to My House" to a sweet rendition of John Bucchino's "Grateful" to a rousing version of Yiddish favorite "Roumania, Roumania" — with longtime accompanist Ron Roy providing a brief assist.

Halpern serves up nearly 20 songs in all, with impeccable phrasing, rich coloring and infectious exuberance. Just about the only thing missing is a Hebrew number, say "Eretz Zavat Chalav Udevash" ("Land Flowing with Milk and Honey").

Meanwhile, she's chopping apples and pouring Manischewitz red as she prepares charoset, the sweet Passover dish that represents the bricks and mortar made by the slaves in Egypt. She distributes cups of it to the audience at the end of the 90-minute show.

Another combination dish — meatloaf with cinnamon, oregano and spearmint—takes the form of a pivotal story in "Cravings." Halpern recalls preparing the meal with Ida and being reassured by her grandmother's words: "Whatever you do is OK."

"She was a force of unconditional love," Halpern said in the interview of Ida.

In "Cravings," Halpern explains the Jewish practice of saying grace after meals, known as Birkhat Hamazon, to thank G-d for being content. Both in the show and in life, she embraces the Torah tenet: "And you shall eat and you shall be satisfied."

Sharing the bounty, Halpern earmarked proceeds from three performances to benefit Newburyport Theatre and the food charities Community Servings and Project Mazon. "My vision is that this is a show that is right for community service," she said, adding that she may perform the cabaret across the country.

Why stop there? Halpern, who has appeared in such far-flung cities as Paris, Jerusalem and Bombay, Halpern should consider taking "Cravings" around the world.
* * * - The Jewish Advocate

"Love is the constant in ‘Cravings’"

CAMBRIDGE - In the famous opening words to “Twelfth Night,’’ Duke Orsino puts the matter of his outsize appetite on the table, so to speak, declaring: “If music be the food of love, play on.’’ Belle Linda Halpern might amend that to say that food is the music of love.
In her open-hearted cabaret show “Cravings: Songs of Hunger & Satisfaction,’’ Halpern touches upon the ways food can be an expression of love, a substitute for love, or simply, as in the Jewish heritage that forms a central pillar of “Songs,’’ a reminder “to taste the sweetness in the everyday.’’
Halpern mixes personal anecdotes with renditions of (mostly) food-themed tunes. She opens with Cab Calloway’s “Everybody Eats When They Come to My House’’ - and she means it. Standing behind two tables loaded with bowls, a blender, and a bottle of Manischewitz, she prepares food while she speaks, sometimes attired in an apron. By show’s end she will distribute the food to the audience (it’s charoset, a blend of apples, cinnamon, nuts and wine that is often served during the Passover Seder).
Halpern traces her relationship with food, beginning with fond childhood recollections of her grandmother’s kitchen. She enjoys a strong rapport with pianist Ron Roy, and builds one with the audience. At one point, she asked audience members to call out the food they associated with their grandmothers. “Gefilte fish!’’ one person offered. “Matzo balls!’’ cried another. “Chicken cacciatore!’’ said a man, prompting Halpern to crack: “I’m glad we have someone from another tribe.’’
It’s an undeniably warm and homey atmosphere inside the Central Square Theater’s small Studio Theater. In general, Halpern prefers to say it with song - and that she does quite well, as followers of the Boston cabaret scene have known for years. She can put a lump in your throat one moment, with a heart-rending rendition of Stephen Schwartz’s “I’m Not That Girl,’’ and a smile on your face the next with a defiant “I Want It All,’’ by Richard Maltby and David Shire. She wrung every drop of insinuation from Dave Frishberg’s “Peel Me a Grape’’ (peeling an apple as she sang), and expertly located the laughs in a chocoholic’s dream version of “My Favorite Things.’’
Don Aucoin can be reached at
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

CRAVINGS: Songs of Hunger & Satisfaction Created by Belle Linda Halpern in collaboration with Sabrina Hamilton and Ron Roy.
Performed by Halpern
Directed and designed by Hamilton. Musical direction and accompaniment, Roy.
At: Central Square Theater, through Oct. 25. Tickets $35 ($25 seniors, $20 students), 866-811-4111, - The Boston Globe


A CD of Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction, is due for release on April 15, 2011. Excerpts from the show may be seen on the website http;//


Feeling a bit camera shy


Belle Linda Halpern has been performing American and Yiddish classics since she launched Sing for your Supper, a musical catering company, at age 16. Now performing and teaching internationally, her cabaret shows include Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction, commissioned by the Ko Theatre of Amherst, MA, which consistently receives standing ovations and which she is translating into a scale for main stage venues. She also co-created Moon Over Dark Street, a Brecht/Weill Cabaret with Pilgrim Theatre; Cutting Crosstown: From 2nd Avenue to Broadway with fellow performer Jeffrey Korn; and her one woman shows Songs from the Brink, Songs of Love and Agitation and The Love Songs of Rodgers and Sondheim. On the Jewish theater circuit, venues have included the JCCs of Rochester, NY, Newton, New Bedford and Stoughton, MA, as well as Jewish events from Phoenix, Arizona to Kansas City, Missouri. Belle’s interest in Weill and Yiddish music was inspired by the generous spirit of her teacher, Martha Schlamme.

Belle has performed as a cabaret singer and actor at clubs and theaters in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Paris, Munich, Jerusalem, and Bombay. Each summer she sings cabaret concerts in the villas and castles of Northern Italy. A graduate of Harvard/Radcliffe, she performs in French and Italian as well as Yiddish and Hebrew. She has also co-authored Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate, and Inspire, published by Penguin, about the leadership development work she does with her company, The Ariel Group.

Her theater roles include Esther in Elizabeth Swados’ rock opera Esther, Alice in her Alice in Concert, Josephine in Laura Harrington’s N (Bonaparte) and Sally in Cabaret. The Boston Globe has called her work “stunning, both as music and theater.” The Boston Herald hails her as “Boston’s best singing actor.” Belle’s other theater credits include work with Robert Wilson and Andrew Serban at the American Repertory Theater. She has taught singing and performance since 1991 at Harvard University and each summer in Italy through the Tuscany Project.