2015-12-23 / Local News

Producer of Broadway’s ‘Fiddler’ revival got his start locally

MEET GEOFFREY SOFFER…
By JOANI WHINSTON For the Voice

FAMILY: Parents Bess and Dr. Jim Soffer; brother Rabbi Matthew Soffer

FAVORITE FILM: “Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (with Gene Wilder)

FAVORITE FOOD: Mother’s Toffee Squares & Blueberry Bread

FAVORITE MUSIC GROUP: CH East Singers under the direction of Lisa Blyler Wilson

FAVORITE BOOK: “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo

So…what happens when you sing and tap dance in front of a food cart all summer? Naturally, you become a theater producer with the chutzpah to revive “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway. Well, it didn’t exactly happen like that for Cherry Hill native Geoffrey Soffer. Or did it?

Soffer grew up in a family that loved the stage. His parents, Jim and Bess Soffer, were constantly exposing him to theater of all kinds. When Soffer was 10 years old, he auditioned for the part of Oliver in a Cherry Hill High School East production. He got the role and thus began his long love affair with theater. The following year, his grandmother, Maxine, saw an open audition call for the national touring company of “Les Miserables.” Although he knew only one song, Soffer thought he would give it a shot. He won the role of Gavroche on the spot.

He attended the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. Although enrolled in the musical theater department, Soffer realized what he really loved was the behind the scenes activities. “You are a part of growing the production from start to finish,” he explained.

Soffer moved to New York City to be close to where it all happens. But first, he put in a creative summer of 1996 as assistant chef for Joani’s Garden Gourmet, a food cart owned by yours truly at 34th and Chestnut St. Not content with just mixing salads, Soffer entertained the passers by with song and dance.

Back in NY, he said he “initially struggled to find my place in the business.” Eventually, Soffer landed a job in casting. This led to a job at ABC as a casting associate. He went on to become casting director for the Emmy Award winning show “Ugly Betty.”

In 2008, Soffer left ABC and formed his own casting office. He settled into casting because he loved actors and because it served as an outlet for his creativity. But after a while that wasn’t enough. With the encouragement of his friend Judith Light, whom he met while at “Ugly Betty,” Soffer decided he wanted to move into talent management and producing. His company, Soffer/Namoff Entertainment, now manages about 30 clients who appear on stage, screen and TV.

Most recently, Soffer and his business partner, Jen Namoff, were invited to help produce a revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway and they readily accepted. “What an incredible opportunity for my first Broadway show as producer,” Soffer observed.

He described the role as doing a “little bit of everything,” including fundraising, marketing and “being an ambassador” to promote the show.

The latest revival and sixth Broadway production of “Fiddler” since Zero Mostel debuted in the role of Tevye in 1964, officially opened Dec. 20. It features a cast of Broadway veterans including Danny Burstein (“Cabaret,” “South Pacific”) as Tevye and Jessica Hecht (“A View from the Bridge,” TV’s “Breaking Bad”) as Golde, as well as “So You Think You Can Dance” winner Melanie Moore as Chava.

Although Soffer has found a comfortable niche in NY, he remains firmly rooted in the Cherry Hill community. He just attended his 20th high school reunion and remains close to friends he made at Temple Emanuel. “That’s what it’s like growing up in Cherry Hill,” he said. He gives a lot of credit for his success to his “tight-knit, loving, creative Jewish family” who “made me feel confident in who I am and what I want to do.”

He now lives in Westchester County with his husband, Joaquin, and Otto, their seven-year old Schnauzer.

When asked for a favorite saying, Geoff used the word “vivir,” which in Spanish means “to live.” It seems that Soffer does that every day of his life.

For tickets to “Fiddler,” visit: FIDDLERMUSICAL.com or TELECHARGE.com (800- 432-7250). .

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