The Jew(el)s of Broadway Shine In Tel Aviv
Gay times are upon us, musical luvers! You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews – a co-production of English National Theatre of Israel and London’s Collaborative Artists is coming to Tel Aviv Museum of Art next week. The show brings together West End stars from London and top-class Israeli performers, in a large-scale musical spectacular. What a fantastic celebration of the enormous contribution the Jewish people have made to musical theater throughout history! Got your ticket already?
The fierce title of show comes from Monty Python’s Spamalot – which was eventually changed as apparently offended some people. This won’t be a problem in Israel! Johannah Jolson, Founder and Artistic Director of the English National Theatre of Israel says; “We are passionate about producing and promoting not only high quality, professional English-language theatre – but also theatre that resonates specifically with audiences here in Israel. We firmly believe that international partnerships such as this one are the most powerful way we can be ambassadors for the arts and artists in Israel.”
Prior the big premiere I sat down with multi-talented and super hot (oops, did I say that out loud?) British actor and producer Daniel Donskoy – who said: “With the rise in anti-Semitism across Europe and all over the world, we believe that this project is essential, not just for Jewish performers – but for everyone. It is a chance to rebuild bridges that are being destroyed by racism and prejudice. This show neither discusses Jewish suffering, nor is it political. It is simply a celebration of the enormous Jewish success in show business.”
Actor and producer in one – is it not hard enough to be one of these just before an international premier? Who is more excited, or nervous in you, the one stepping on stage or the one bringing the show to Tel Aviv?
It really is nerve-racking either way but fortunately I don’t work alone. My wonderful partner in crime Michaela Stern is always there with me so if we do freak out, at least we freak out together. I suppose as a producer it is a completely different experience though. You wan’t the show to be a success, you want the actors feel comfortable and ready and it’s all down to you at the ned of the day. To finish this off, we are both also directing this show BUT we really wouldn’t want it any other way.
You won’t succeed on Broadway is so close to our hearts and I personally feel so proud of the journey it’s taking so being part of it on stage is actually a blessing. Those few moments on stage, you forget about the “producing stuff” and enjoy being an actor but as soon as you are off, the brain starts ticking again and you wan’t to make sure everything is going by plan. The one thing , Michaela and myself both agreed on though, was that this will be the last time that we will be performing in our own productions. Doing both deprives you of one thing in particular – you can never lean back into the chair in the theatre and watch the finished product.
But honestly we can’t wait to step on that stage on the 13th of July.
As Tel Aviv only had community theaters playing shows in English, it’s a breath of fresh air to see all this is really happening, not to mention the lack of musicals on repertoire. Did you study, or get into what the Tel Aviv anglo audience “needs” or you just went with your gut feeling?
It’s all about the gut feeling in life! Really, most of the decisions in life , if they are arts related or not , I do by trying to listen to the insides of my belly. I still haven’t figured out if this is the right way forward but I overthink everything so it’s feels good to just make a decision a fully believe that everything happens for a reason. The lack of Musicals in Israel is something I have been aware of for quite some time. The Israeli productions are always wonderful and of course Tel Aviv gets visited by High-End productions like Cats and Mama Mia but we really believe our show has this little bit more to offer.
It is a show that was build upon an idea of celebrating the wonders of showbusiness and tell the stories of the most famous Broadway composers, many of whom had one thing in common. It was developed by young Jewish team in London and it was always our dream to bring it to Tel Aviv – if we are honest, we can’t really believe that this is happening.
How long are you staying in Tel Aviv and what are your plans apart from doing the shows – I’m guessing it’s not your first time in the White City.
We will be in Tel Aviv for 17 days all together. The creative team will arrive slightly earlier then the actors, which will leave us time to … have a drink in every single one of Tel Aviv’s Bars … sorry I meant get everything sorted of course. I was very fortunate to have lived in Israel for 5 years during high school and I am trying to visit very frequently, at least twice a year but for many of our team this will be the first time in Israel. I do feel like a host to a certain extend so we will try and fit in as much cultural exploring as possible in between the hectic show schedule. I myself can’t wait to hum into the sea the moment my feet will touchy the sand, I can’t wait to have Breakfast on a friday at the Flea market in Yaffo , I can’t wait to have dinner and a great bottle of wine at the Brasserie. There are too many incredible places and every time I arrive, there are suddenly so many new ones that it’s hard to follow.
Which are your favorite songs from the show, and which ones can we hear from you?
It was really hard to actually get the song list together. There is just so much brilliant stuff out there in the world and too many extremely talented composers many of whom we sadly couldn’t feature in the show. One of my absolute favourites is definitely Burt Bacharach’s ‘A house is not a home’ which was sung by legends such Dionne Warwick and Frank Sinatra. It is so chilling – I am sure you have had the feeling yourself – When you live in a space with someone you associate certain furniture with that person. For instance your partners favourite spot on the sofa. Once their not there anymore the sofa looses its life – it doesn’t feel like the same old comfortable sofa on which you shared so many laughs and well… Let’s not go into that. But you know what I mean?
We have so many associations with still objects that remind us of the people and moments we cherish so much. A house is not a home really expresses that with a stunning melody and wonderfully clever lyrics. I myself will be taking part in the number 4 Jews in a room Bitching by William Finn – a true genius. A man , his lover , his son and his therapist – you can make up the rest. I will also be singing the song Caught in the Storm from the TV Musical-Show Smash composed by Pasek and Paul.
And finally – how does the British audience respond to the title of the show? It’s clearly fun and ironic but these days people tend to take it seriously when someone declares Jews as “superiors”. Do you get negative responses, and if yes, how do you deal with it?
As much as the title could be provocative it probably is also intriguing. As jewish actors in London, we did have to deal with some negativity, especially during Operation Protective Edge last summer. I myself was in rehearsals for a show, whilst my family were in the bunker of our family house. Michaela and me met in an audition room after a political discussion about the middle east conflict had started. The entertainment industry in London can be quite condemning and judgmental when it comes to the sensitive subject of Israeli politics. We felt it was our duty, as young active members of both, the Jewish and the Theatrical community to create a show that would show the Jewish community in an unusual light of positivity.
Address: Jeannette and Yehuda Assia Auditorium, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Sderot Sha’ul HaMelech 27, Tel Aviv-Yafo, 61332012 / Dates: Monday 13th – Friday 17th July, 2015 / Performance times: Mon – Thu, 19:30; Fri, 14:30 / Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (including interval) / Ticket prices: ₪185 – ₪235 (reduction for soldiers, students and senior citizens) / For online booking CLICK HERE.
Cast members from London include Jackie Marks – London theatre superstar, who featured in the Les Miserables movie, as well as being the first ever British ‘Fantine’ in the West End show, ‘Nancy’ in Oliver!, Mira Ormala – ‘Christine’ in Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to Phantom of the Opera, and other stars who between them have performed in shows all across the West End such as Rent and West Side Story – and at prestigious venues including the National Theatre and Royal Albert Hall. Joining the cast from London are top-class Israeli performers including Cameri actor Yiftach Mizrahi, who most recently appeared in Cabaret at the acclaimed Tel Aviv theatre.
Find out more at www.englishtheatreisrael.com, www.facebook.com/ENTheatreIsrael www.collaborativeartists.co.uk, www.facebook.com/collaborativeartistsldn / Follow the blog on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KristofSteinerBlog & on Instagram.