Raunchy Little Musical—Belle Barth is Back!
Opens March 23 through April 29, 2018


Tickets and Information

Raunchy Little Musical logo
(formerly titled “Belle Barth: If I embarrass you, tell your friends”)

With music by Chicago composer Ilya Levinson and lyrics by Owen Kalt.

“Raunchy Little Musical—Belle Barth is Back!” received rave reviews at performances in Tampa, described by Deb Kelley in Broadway World as:
“an incredible love letter to the woman who had the balls to act like a man, in a time when women were expected to be prim and proper. . .

"There’s no doubt—after laughing on and off for 100 minutes, people will be talking about this show. . .

"Sara DelBeato IS Belle.  She’s a prettier, voluptuous, powerhouse embodiment of the comedian, an exuberant force of nature. . . “

"This isn’t just a story about a little-known female comedian’s rise to face; it’s a woman looking for love—love withheld by a disapproving mother, love freely given by a father lost too soon, love from men who always disappointed, and love from an audience who always came through.”

"The play is expertly crafted, and the actors were amazing to watch as they brought Joanne Koch’s words to life in a flawless production.”


Before Joan Rivers, Roseanne, Lisa Lampanelli or Sarah Silverman, Belle Barth was the original, totally irreverent woman comic. Dubbed “the female Lenny Bruce,” Belle Barth—with her bawdy nightclub act and records selling in the millions— became the
forbidden fruit of the fifties.

The great success off-Broadway and on the East Coast of the musical “Sophie, Totie & Belle” and the New York Times review singling out the appeal of the Belle Barth character inspired this evening of jokes, songs, wild but true anecdotes and a few poignant moments of truth. Composer Ilya Levinson and lyricist Owen Kalt, working with Joanne Koch created ten original songs that capture the fifties double standard concerning sex and the unique appeal of a woman who would boldly unveil America’s “dirty little secrets.”

“Belle Barth: If I embarrass you, tell your friends” ( also the title of one of Belle’s hugely popular joke records), debuted at Chicago’s Theo Ubique Theatre where it was recommended for a Joseph Jefferson award and called “funny, tuneful and touching.” Recent staged readings and workshops in L.A. starring Lainie Kazan gave the show further development. Belle is an invitation to laughter for adult audiences, a perfect offering for an intimate theater, commercially viable and highly portable, with a cast of two plus piano

Cast requirements: female singer-comic-actor & versatile male character actor, piano.

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American Klezmer
book by Joanne Koch & Sarah Blacher Cohen
lyrics by Owen Kalt
music by Ilya Levinson

A new musical comedy that follows immigrant musicians coming to America in 1910. Premiere Los Angeles production hailed as “wonderfully appealing,” “glorious,” “keeps you laughing.”

When American Klezmer was first produced in Los Angeles by the West Coast Jewish Theatre, directed by Herb Isaacs, Los Angeles Weekly said: “Go Klezmer!” and “Delightful music and clever lyrics.” SHOWMAG.COM called it “glorious.” The Forward featured it in a major article, and KABC radio said, “I loved it.”


Rooted in the lively klezmer music that’s been called Jewish jazz, this original musical follows two sisters and a band of musicians as they come to America in 1910. Men who don’t believe in marriage, women who demand to sing, in public, immigrant challenges inspire romantic, humorous and touching numbers including “The Lonesome Kosher Cowboy,” “Anything Can Happen in America,” “Divorcee’s Tango,” and “I Want to Sing!”

You can’t listen to this engaging klezmer music --or the charming, surprisingly modern story of Love vs. Career, the New vs. Tradition--without tapping your feet, clapping your hands and breaking into a smile.

Composer Ilya Levinson, whose widely praised 1998 composition, Klezmer Rhapsody, “captures the essence of the folk genre through its alternation of schmaltz and zest” has composed for stage and screen, including the recent film documentary on Isa Kremer, Isa: the Eternal Diva. Lyricist Owen Kalt received the prestigious ASCAP Award. His cabaret songs are popular throughout the country. He wrote the lyrics for the new adaptation of “Sleepy Hollow” playing throughout the Midwest.

Cast requirements: three women, six men
violin, clarinet & piano

Soul Sisters
by Joanne Koch & Sarah Blacher Cohen.

Two great performers—one African-American and one Jewish, help each other through public success, personal tragedy and a rediscovery of their roots.

Songs by Billie Holiday, Debbie Friedman, George Gershwin and original title song by Mark Elliott celebrate Jewish and African-American culture. This multicultural musical recognizes conflicts and joyously finds common ground.

Soul Sisters has toured to thirty-one theaters, universities, colleges, schools, and communities, hailed as “unifying” and “a musical treasure,” including Clockwise Theatre, Waukegan, Illinois, Theatre of the Berkshires, Lennox, Mass., Women’s Theatre Alliance, Chicago, Cornell University, State University of New York, Albany, Marquette University, Michigan State University, Clark University, Hamilton College, Boston University, Syracuse University, Franklin & Marshall College, Bradley University, National Louis University, Chicago, Indiana University, Bloomington, University of Missouri, Columbia, Drew University, NJ, Olin –Sang Institute, Oconomowoc, WI, Franklin and Marshall College, Eisenhower High School, IL, Chicago Urban League & Midwest Anti-Defamation Young Leaders United, Philadelphia Community College, and congregations in Evanston IL, Milwaukee, and Long Island, New York.

Soul Sisters has been published in Shared Stages: Ten American Dramas of Blacks & Jews, edited by Sarah Blacher Cohen and Joanne Koch. SUNY Press, www.sunypress.edu, or at www.amazon.com.

Cast requirements: two women singers, one male character actor
Piano or keyboard.
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Safe Harbor
By Joanne Koch
based on the true story as related by Andrew Algava.

SAFE HARBOR is an authentic drama of courage in the face of impossible odds. When Nicolas Zafiropoulos, then Greek Consul General in Chicago, saw the play SAFE HARBOR, he said in his letter:

“I personally found “Safe Harbor” to be a most powerful story aptly and evocatively told. Your play is a reminder of the best qualities of humankind. Many Greeks hid and protected Jewish families from persecution during the German and Italian occupation and what you have captured is a tribute to the quiet heroism of countless men, women and children who at great personal risk stood up for decency and the universal values of humanity. Your treatment of the material is both sensitive and accurate and is presented in an especially interesting and original format.”

SAFE HARBOR is based on the true story of a family rescued by brave Greeks during the Nazi occupation of Salonika (Thessaloniki). SAFE HARBOR has been bringing Greek, Jewish and other people from around the world together since it was first produced in 1999 in Chicago at the Organic Theater by Elayne LeTraunik. Since then there have been numerous special performances, including a historic one co-sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Chicago and the American Jewish Committee.

SAFE HARBOR has been presented effectively in theaters, universities, high schools and synagogues, in some cases introduced by Ladino music, as a staged reading or full production. A selection of Sephardic songs, sung in Ladino, recorded especially for introducing SAFE HARBOR by Alberto Mizrahi, is available for those who decide to present this play.

SAFE HARBOR has been translated into Greek and is currently being developed as an opera, with original music composed by Ilya Levinson, to be produced in Athens and Thessaloniki. The screenplay has been completed for a feature film to be shot in Greece.

Cast requirements: four women, six men, one boy.
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by Joanne Koch
Winner of the Nantucket Short Play Competition

In this award-winning, one-act play two young people --one trusting, introspective and blind, the other suspicious, defensive and sighted--share a moment of intimacy and conflict.

Excerpt of letter from Nantucket Short Play Competition:

“Congratulations. Your play, Stardust, was selected as the overall winner of the 16th Annual Nantucket Short Play Competition. It is a beautifully written dramatic piece that touches on several subjects. It is a coming of age love story, a subtly evocative look into the world of a person with an obvious physical handicap, an even cleverer look into the world of someone with a far less obvious emotional handicap, and a mystery as to whether hope and love are strong enough to overcome that baggage.
It should be a wonderful production at any legitimate theatre and is one of the very best treatments of high school age issues that I have read.”—Jim Patrick, Literary Manager, Nantucket Short Play Competition and Festival.

STARDUST has had productions at theaters and schools in Chicago, New York City, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Kalamazoo, Michigan. The play is published by Dramatic Publishing Company. To order a copy of “Stardust” or license it for production, please go to www.dramaticpublilshing.org.
Cast Requirements: one teenage young woman, one teenage young man
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by Joanne Koch

A LEADING WOMAN is the happy David & Goliath true story of how a band of struggling actors stood up to the mighty Broadway producers in the summer of 1919 when theater was booming.

George Gershwin, George M. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” Cohan, and the founder of Variety are part of the lively tale. But it’s the women—based on women who led the way for Actors’ Equity—who galvanize the rank and file and persuade the producers to give the new association a fair wage. From the mature Mrs. Minnie Maddern Fiske (based on the actress who first brought Ibsen and Chekhov to America) to the self-appointed diva Hepsibah Tallyrand, to trooper Grace Partridge and fiery young suffragist Fiona, these colorful characters tickle the funny bone and touch the heart.

This play, developed in Equity staged readings and workshops by grants from the Richard H. Dreihaus Foundatiion and the Dramatists Guild Fund, Inc., enlivened by selected piano music of the period arranged by contemporary composer Philip Seward, is perfect for community theaters, universities and high schools.

Cast requirements: five women of various ages, five men of various ages, one piano player.
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adapted for the stage with authors’ permission by Joanne Koch from the book Where Courage Is Like A Wild Horse: the World of an Indian Orphanage by Sharon “Okee Chee” Skolnick and Manny Skolnick, copyright 2001 Sharon and Manny Skolnick.

Courage like a wild horse is the true, coming of age story of Linda Lakoe, a young Apache woman who finds discrimination and conflict when she and her sister are placed in an Oklahoma American Indian orphanage.

Haunted by past abuse and overwork in the foster system, confronting bullies who look down on her tribe, coping with the upheaval of puberty, and betrayed by a sister who would do anything to be adopted, Linda is brought to the brink of suicide. Ultimately, nature, horses and a helping hand from a woman who recognizes her talent rouse her from despair, guiding her to discover her calling as an artist. With a new respect for her Native identity, Linda receives the name “Okee Chee” and finally finds a home.

Okee Chee (now Sharon Okee Chee Skolnick) became a major Native American painter and dollmaker, and head of the American Indian Center in Chicago. Richard West, the painter who inspired her and was the first to recognize her talent, is the father of Richard West, Jr., founder of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D. C.

The development of this play has been funded, in part, by the Dramatists Guild Fund, Inc. and supported by the Chicago Writers’ Bloc. Courage like a wild horse had its first staged reading in 2004 at the Chicago Writers’ Bloc New Play Festival held at Theatre Building Chicago. A revised version of the play had a staged reading on May 19, 2008 at the Victory Gardens Reader’s Theater, with incidental music composed and performed by Hiko. On July 10, 2008 the American Indian Center hosted another staged reading of the play, using the Victory Gardens director and cast, and honoring Okee Chee for her contribution to the American Indian Center.

Cast requirements: 3 young women to play Native American teenagers, 1 older woman, 2 young men and 1 mature man to play Native Americans, 1 older man to play various Caucasian characters.

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by Joanne Koch & Sarah Blacher Cohen, original music & lyrics by Mark Elliott, other songs by permission

Hailed at its first performance as “a vibrant, funny and insightful musical,” DANNY is about one of the comic geniuses of the twentieth century and his wife Sylvia, the woman who helped him become America’s number one movie star.

DANNY, requiring only two men and two women, has toured to the East Coast and the Midwest, entertaining audiences of all ages with its zany Kaye antics, original songs by Mark Elliott and classic Kaye tunes and comic routines.

This sparkling musical celebrates the public personality who brought so much pleasure to adults and children around the world—whether as Walter Mitty, Hans Christian Andersen, the Court Jester or the Ambassador for UNICEF. It also reveals Kaye’s friendships with Eve Arden, Sir Laurence Olivier, G.B. Shaw, Winston Churchill, Princess Margaret and Moss Hart.

Above all the focus is on Danny and Sylvia--two dynamic individuals who worked together to produce boundless laughter.

Cast requirements: one male actor-singer to portray Danny Kaye, one male character actor-singer to portray Laurence Olivier & others, one female actor-singer to portray Sylvia Fine Kaye, one female actor-singer to portray other women.
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Henrietta Szold: Woman of Valor

by Joanne Koch & Sarah Blacher Cohen

A play about “the most remarkable Jewish woman of the 20th century,” according to David Ben Gurion. She founded Hadassah, saved thousands of children from the Holocaust and fought for world peace.
On the kibbutz in 1940, Henrietta Szold plans for Youth Aliyah arrivals. She would
would eventually rescue 11,000 children from Germany and other European countries.

Henrietta Szold first came to prominence as the founder of Hadassah (now numbering over 300,000), and went to Palestine herself to established clinics and hospitals that continue to serve in Israel as the medical salvation of Israelis and Arabs.

Henrietta Szold was the only woman in Israel’s pre-State government and head of Youth Aliyah, which rescued thousands of young people from Nazi Germany before its borders were sealed. The play dramatizes Szold’s life and career (1860-1945), and uses one male actor. To play the many men with whom she worked, including Louis Brandeis, Chaim Weizmann, Louis Ginzberg, Ben-Gurion and Fiorello LaGuardia.

Henrietta Szold: Woman of Valor premiered at the University at Albany and has toured widely including the Bendheim Center, Scarsdale, Lafayette College, Spertus Institute/Chicago, Hadassah, Florida Atlantic University, JCC of Greater Washington, Schenectady, Baltimore Hebrew University. The authors received a research grant from Brandeis University’s Hadassah Institute.

Cast requirements: One mature female actor, one versatile male actor 30s or 40s.
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Roslyn Alexander portrays Henrietta Szold in the one-woman drama adapted by Joanne Koch

Joanne Koch has adapted the Henrietta Szold into a one-woman, one-hour presentation, performed by noted Chicago actress Roslyn Alexander. Debuting at the 100th anniversary celebration of Hadassah, this version, Henrietta Szold: Mother of a Multitude, is available for touring to the Midwest featuring the remarkable Miss Alexander. The one-woman version is also available through Joanne Koch as a script to be considered by a mature actress for performance in other parts of the country.
Other Plays by Joanne Koch & *Sarah Blacher Cohen (1936-2008)

Sophie, Totie & Belle
the musical based on a fictional meeting of Sophie Tucker, Totie Fields and Belle Barth, co-authored by Joanne Koch & Sarah Blacher Cohen has played to sold-out houses Off-Broadway at Theatre Four, and throughout the East Coast, including numerous runs in Florida.
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*NOTE ON RIGHTS to works by Koch & Cohen. All rights to collaborations on plays and musicals copyrighted in the names of Joanne Koch and Sarah Blacher Cohen have been transferred to Joanne Koch at the request of the late Dr. Cohen in her will of 2008.

Saul Bellow’s Stories on Stage: A Silver Dish, adapted by Joanne Koch and The Old System, adapted by Sarah Blacher Cohen was presented at the Streisand Festival in San Diego, the New York State Writers Institute, the Jewish Theatre of New England in Boston and Spertus Institute, Chicago. These adaptations are published in a special tribute volume by Purdue University Press.


SHARED STAGES, a ten play anthology co-edited and with an introduction by Cohen & Koch, includes Driving Miss Daisy, Fires in the Mirror, I’m Not Rappaport, Soul Sisters.

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Joanne misses her outstanding collaborator.

Joanne Koch (top-left) with Sarah Blacher Cohen (bottom-left) with the original Soul Sisters, Jacque Washington (top-right) and Vikki True (bottom-right).

Joanne Koch



© 2014 Joanne Koch. All rights reserved.