The title, of course, alludes to the fact that June 16 was he day on which James Joyce set “Ulysses,” the day on which he, in his imagination, at least, followed Leopold Bloom through a long, complicated, sometimes despairing Dublin day.
Those Roman numerals indicate that Thursday’s event, starting at 7 p.m., and lasting in all probability, well past midnight, will mark the 24th year in which the folks at Symphony Space will have gotten together and, one way and another, confronted Joyce on his home turf.
Symphony Space, which, years ago, was an Upper West Side movie house called the Symphony, has been extensively remodeled and refurbished, and now serves as a sort of cultural center for the area, with a wide variety of attractions, including day-long concerts, free of charge, and each decided, for the most part, to the output of a single composer. In the past, individuals singled out for the lengthy tribute have included Cole Porter, Mozart, and most recently Stephen Sondheim.
The auditorium in which “Bloomsday on Broadway XXIV” will take place tomorrow evening has a new, official, more formal name. It is now the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Peter Norton Symphony Space.
To most people who frequent the beloved institution at 95th Street and Broadway, however, it will probably continue to be known simply as Symphony Space, as it has been for the last couple of decades.
Each June 16, “Bloomsday on Broadway” comes equipped with a theme, concocted by Sheffer and his associates in an attempt to breathe freshness and variety into the venture.
Past “Bloomsday” observances have been structured around the idea of fathers-and-sons, and, one year, around the many languages into which James Joyce’s “Ulysses” has been translated.
“Bloomsday on Broadway XXIV” is centered around what the publicity materials call “the women in Leopold Bloom’s life,” which may come as something of a surprise, considering the trouble poor Bloom has with his libidinous wife, Molly, who is, to put it mildly, more of a burden than he can comfortably deal with.
There are, of course, others, including his daughter, Milly, and such individuals as Gertie, Martha, Josie, Bella and others.
At 7:00, “Bloomsday on Broadway XXIV” will embark on what is referred to as “a whirlwind tour” of the ladies with who Leopold Bloom was, one way or another, “involved.”
The actual performance will lead off with overlapping readings by no fewer than 34 Mollies, followed by fragments delivered by actors “identifying themselves” as being one or another of the “Long list of Molly’s lovers” which is probably where the aforementioned ‘Lust!” comes in.
This year, Bloom will be portrayed by Stephen Colbert, one of the regular performers on the television show hosted by Jon Stewart. Costumed as Bloom, Colbert, who is about to debut in his own TV production, will begin with the portion of the Joyce text in which the “hero” makes breakfast for Molly and her cat.
Colbert will read portions of the Calypso episode through to the end of the Lestrygonians, as Bloom takes his walk through Dublin, during which, to quote the press release, “he reads his love letter from Martha Clifford, and throws it in the River Liffey, eventually stopping in the baths and ruminating on his naked body.”
This year’s “Bloomsday” will feature some sixty performers, many of them familiar Broadway names, some of whom live within walking distance from Symphony Space.
Again, as always, the evening will culminate with a reading of the passage with which the book concludes, namely Molly Bloom’s famous and infamous soliloquy. This year, as often has been the case in the past, the reader will be Terry Donnelly, familiar for her work with the Irish Repertory Theatre.
The evening will be “punctuated” by sopranos singing songs from Molly’s operative repertoire as well as Irish ballads in English and Irish Gaelic, including a few songs about Bloom’s women written especially for the occasion. Singers appearing will include the Finnish trio Kaiku,, the Roumanian singer, Raluca Barbulescu, and Irish singers including Ashey Davis and Kate O’Brien.
New this year will be a portion of “Ulysses” translated into Yiddish.
Directed by Caraid O’Brien, “Bloomsday on Broadway XXIV” will be broadcast live on WBAI, 99.5 FM produced for radio by Larry Josephson.