The American Musical as a Bad Jewish Joke

Review: ‘You Won’t Succeed on Broadway If You Don’t Have Any Jews.’

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“You Won’t Succeed on Broadway If You Don’t Have Any Jews"
Credit: PR

I usually do not go see amateur theater productions, and certainly never write about them. But this show from the English National Theater of Israel (which has the pretension of being a professional theater for English speakers in Israel) and the producers “Collaborative Artists” was advertised and promoted as arriving fresh from a success in London’s West End (at the Garrick Theatre), returning there soon (to the St. James Theatre), and acted and produced by theater professionals from Israel and Britain.

The material was tempting too: The fact is that the American musical would simply not have have been born without its Jews, and those wonderful and timeless songs – all that needs to be done is not ruin them, and we can assume that professionals will comply.

But the truth is otherwise: This production, which charges full price for tickets, and which labels itself a product of the West End and Broadway, is embarrassingly amateurish by any standard (excluding the skills of most of the actors and dancers). Most Israeli acting schools would be embarrassed to put on such a production, even for an internal student show.

The story – about the Jewish lyricists and composers who created the American musical – is presented in narration against a background of a screen with poorly-done animation, with Hebrew subtitles that require binoculars to read. The text is irritating, sloppy, shallow, lacking any logic or continuity, and does not say anything significant about the subject – about which there is certainly a lot to say.

The choice of songs is haphazard, unrelated to the story, arranged chronologically. The musical arrangements (played by a rather large orchestra) are even less than just routine, with some performed cautiously slow. The choreography and costumes are ridiculous, and I feel sorry for the professional dancers, singers and actors who found their way into this commercial event, which borders on professional impersonation and has pretensions well above itself. The best thing I can say about such a production is that to present it and sell tickets for it is Jewish chutzpah. Truly a bad Jewish joke.

The American musical theater is something I really know and love, and it is important to me to warn anyone who is interested in it not to be tempted to see this show.

Collaborative Artists and the English National Theater of Israel present: “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway If You Don’t Have Any Jews!” Directors and Editors: Daniel Donskoy and Michaela Stern

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