Marking the entry into Jewish adult life and responsibility, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a momentous occasion that presents a truckload of great entertainment possibilities and challenges. While the religious component of the event takes place at a synagogue, all bets are off with modern receptions that take place at venues ranging from luxe to offbeat.
In the 2006 movie “Keeping Up With The Steins,” Jeremy Piven and Jami Gertz play parents caught up in a game of Bar Mitzvah one-upmanship that has them trying to rent out Dodger Stadium and book Neil Diamond to sing that National Anthem. It’s easy to see how parents can go crazy and broke trying to give their kid a party to remember, but by focusing on what is really important - the guest of honor and the spirit of the celebration - hosts can coordinate a heartfelt event that is equally fun and appropriate for everyone in attendance. When it comes to booking talent for the reception, the name of the game is inclusiveness.
Perhaps more than any other party, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah reception is sure to have guests of all ages, including the celebrant’s younger siblings and cousins, tween classmates, friends of parents and grandparents. The junior high set goes wild for The Black Eyed Peas, but granny and gramps have a hankering for Sinatra. In selecting live music or a DJ it is absolutely essential to hire experienced talent who knows how to handle diverse crowds and read a room well. GigMasters guitarist Matthew Cutillo of Amityville, NY says that the magic is in the mix. “Always include everyone: look at the age groups in the room and play what they like - mix it up - give the kids, the grandparents and parents something to smile about, then they will all like the songs even if they aren't their usual thing.” When guests see each other having fun they venture out of their respective comfort zones, the mood becomes infectious and everyone gets into the party. There are countless strategies to draw in guests. Cutillo swears by playing requests as a way to help partygoers feel involved and important.
GigMasters DJ company Didi Maxx Productions of Merrick, NY, has an impressive roster of DJ support talent including professional dancers, stilt walkers and jugglers, magicians, aerialists and acrobats, comedic “party crashers,” and even a professional “no talent” dancer who helps guests shed their inhibitions by proving that truly anything goes on the dance floor. By arming the entertainment with as much information as possible, hosts can ensure that the event will be well suited to both the guest of honor and the crowd.
GigMasters jazz pianist Tara Buzash of Hopewell, NJ always asks for the guest of honor’s favorite songs and expands her standard repertoire accordingly. Many Bar/Bat Mitzvahs have a theme, so be sure to clue in the talent and ask them to integrate it however they see fit. That might mean “We Will Rock You” for a family’s entrance to a sports-themed Bar Mitzvah or Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” or “Hooray For Hollywood” for a red carpet-themed affair. Of course, all of this depends on the Bar or Bat Mitzvah’s temperament. If they squirm in the spotlight then a good entertainer can find ways to celebrate them without making them want to crawl into a hole.
Make sure to provide talent with a list of the honoree’s musical tastes, hobbies, interests, goals and favorite things. Many entertainers on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah circuit have confronted the challenge of parents whose vision of the event differs from that of their son or daughter.
Didi Maxx strives to discover common ground and give everyone something to be happy about. In order to make the entertainment’s job easier try to hammer out these differences at the early stages of party planning. At 13, boys and girls can understand that, while it’s their party, it’s not always all about them. Nods to family and tradition are what make this kind of event meaningful. Conversely, mom and dad need to remember that the Mitzvah isn’t about showboating for their friends, a la “Keeping Up With The Steins.” If one parent is teetering on the verge of mom or dadzilla territory then a little candor and patience should suffice to help them dial it back. At the end of the day, the most successful Bar or Bat Mitzvah is one where everyone feels welcome and has fun. Didi Maxx offers some sage advice for folks that may be taking the whole endeavor a little too seriously. “Remember that this is a CELEBRATION!!
It's supposed to be a fun experience where close family and friends join together to honor the guest of honor and an age-old tradition. Relax, enjoy the experience and let it flow. That's when those unexpected moments that become treasured memories happen.”
With seasoned professionals at the helm, hosts can rest assured that everything will run smoothly and their guests will have fun, allowing them to take off their party-planning hat, let loose and enjoy. Mazel tov!