By Shelley A. Sackett
Arlene “Leni” Sherman wasn’t looking to start a relationship when she accepted a friend’s invitation to join him for dinner with his male dining club. He was curious to hear her “woman’s perspective” about the group. The Malden widow thought it would be a fun night out and nothing more.
Her friend called her back, asking if it would be OK with her if one more person joined the group. He told her she might know him since he too was from Malden. His name was Harvey Goldman.
“I said, ‘Of course I know him. My mother went to his bar mitzvah and his wedding,’ ” Sherman said.
Goldman remembered her too. He called and asked if she wanted to catch up before the dinner. “I had no inclination that we would date. I thought we were just getting together to schmooze and figure out what was going on in our lives,” Sherman said. Instead, the two really hit it off and that night turned into the beginning of the rest of their lives.
That was over 10 years ago. With three grown children and seven grandchildren between them, the couple decided it was time to make their relationship legal “for the sake of the grandchildren.” But at their ages, neither wanted a traditional – or typical – wedding.
The couple love musicals and are regulars at North Shore Musical Theatre in Beverly. “It’s one of the things we really do have in common,” Sherman said. Out of the blue, she put two and two together: What better way to celebrate the blending of their multigenerational families than at the theater?
When she ran the idea by Goldman, he was totally on board.
They checked NSMT’s schedule and realized the last matinee performance of the love story, “Beauty and the Beast,” was Sunday July 31. They confirmed with their rabbi, Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein of Temple Emanuel in Andover, that he was available to officiate. Suddenly, they not only had a wedding venue, they also had a ready-made theme. “It was bashert,” Goldman said.
When they went to the theater, general manager Karen Nascembeni and the NSMT staff helped turn their dream into a reality. They bought a section of the 1,800-seat theater so their more than 100 guests could sit together. “After all the whole thing of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is ‘Be our guest! Be our guest!’” Sherman joked.
Nascembeni helped the couple with all the logistics, including hiring Essex caterer Timothy Hopkins. The traditional Jewish wedding ceremony took place at noon in a large rehearsal space with a chuppa of yellow roses adorned with a single red rose, representative of the Beast’s enchanted red rose under glass.
For the bride and groom, however, while the theme was fun, the most important part of the day was family. “All our children and grandchildren were in the ceremony,” Sherman said.
Officiating a wedding at a musical theater was a first for Rabbi Goldstein. Although most of the weddings he has conducted over the course of his career have been in synagogues, he believes that wherever a wedding takes place, the affection that the bride and groom have for each other, and the warmth and sincere love the guests have for the couple, transforms wherever the ceremony takes place into a holy and sacred space. “Harvey and Leni are blessed. There was unbridled happiness in the room,” he said.
After an hors d’oeuvres reception, all the guests strolled across the garden area into the theater for Act One. At intermission, they returned for more noshes. After Act Two, they enjoyed an ice cream sundae bar and other desserts and drinks.
Sherman, a retired Brandeis University administrator, took the “Beauty and the Beast” theme seriously, coordinating decorations and décor. Like Belle, she and her bridesmaids wore yellow. And, like the Beast, Goldman wore blue. Each guest received a red rose as they entered the theater.
Although delighted by his themed wedding, Goldman admits it was all a little more than they originally anticipated. “The whole idea of this was for us not to be the center of attention,” he said with a laugh.
Striking a more serious note, Goldman, who owns Goldman Funeral Chapel in Malden with his son, Jay waxed philosophical: “One thing I’ve learned in this line of business is that we only have one shot. We never know what tomorrow’s going to bring. You don’t want to live your life saying, ‘Why didn’t I?’”