‘You Won’t Succeed On Broadway If You Don’t Have Any Jews’. I’d be impressed with myself if I could get my tongue around the title without referring to the programme or my ticket. But not as impressed as I was with the incredible cast who bring the cream of eight decades worth of song and dance numbers to life on stage at St James Theatre.
Following a run in Tel-aviv, this Part entertaining history lesson; part mesmerizing cabaret gives a wonderful insight to the composers of some of the best known show tunes. Taking the opportunity to celebrate, the vast, Jewish contribution that has been made to musical theatre.
The history lesson comes in the form of voiceover and animated graphics on a screen, accompanied by music and sometimes dance. My only disappointment in these sections was that I wanted to learn more and get more detail, but of course to have done so would have meant less time for the performances.
Those performances were a delight, the cast worked together to create something quite magical on stage. We moved through years and genres with fluid ease, enjoying highlights of those classic musicals that have enthralled audiences all over the world.
David Albury set the standard high from the outset with his rendition of ‘Summertime’ and continued to impress throughout the show, turning his vocal talents to a variety of well-known songs. Albury is a natural leading man and I very much look forward to seeing what his next stage role will be.
Sarah Earnshaw proved to be a worthy leading lady with the highlight being her incredibly funny performance of ‘Getting Married Today’ while Sophie Evans and Mira Ormala gave another comical twist to My Fair Lady’s ‘I Could Have danced All Night’.
Danny Lane entranced the audience as he belted out ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ and, for me, this was a standout performance.
Natalie Lipin, Rebecca Wicking and Alex Marshall also brought extraordinary talent to a variety of numbers particularly with ‘The Lady is a Tramp’, ‘Papa Can You Hear Me’ and ‘How Can I Call This Home’ respectively. With a large cast I found myself wanting to hear more from these three performers.
I felt very privileged to hear the West Ends original ‘Fantine’ sing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ as Jackie Marks sang this iconic number the audience barely moved or took breath, we all felt humbled to hear this particular performance, it was a joy to behold and the air was electric.
John Barr took perhaps the biggest and most deserved applause of the night for ‘Be our Guest’ while leading the Encore he delighted everyone with a charming and funny performance. Yiftach Mizrahi was another crowd pleaser and a brief glimpse of him as Cabaret’s ‘Emcee’ was enough for us to know that a full performance could well have rivalled that of Alan Cumming.
Lloyd Daniels is quickly earning his stripes in the theatre, and I’ve been following his progress with interest. Partly because I think he has talent and partly because he is such a genuinely nice young man. I had the pleasure of joining him for a drink in an Edinburgh bar a few years ago when the touring production of ‘Up 4 a Meet’ came to the Fringe Festival (I subsequently crossed the country to make sure I saw it for a second time!) Having been very impressed with him in the title role in the recent tour of ‘Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat’, I’d hoped to see him featured more prominently in this production. His first appearance singing ‘Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ reminded us how powerful that Welsh voice is, while his duet with David Albury in a song from ‘Godspell’ was simply beautiful. When he sang ‘Caught in a Storm’ by my favourite composers, Pasek and Paul, I was in no doubt that my interest in his career had not been misplaced.
The show was brought to life by some exceptional dancers. Joshua Steel, Kevin Jack and Carrie Willis were particularly impressive moving from ballet to disco with ease.
Rebecca Fennelly, Sophia McAvoy and Katy Woodley are also incredibly talented and gave the whole show an extra sheen of polish. The choreography was perfection, fooling us in to believing the small stage was much larger than it actually was and particularly during ‘Tradition’ and the ‘Finale’ where Jewish dance was used very effectively.
Finally, a huge credit should go to the band, though small in number I could well have believed there was a full blown orchestra hiding under the stalls such was the stirring power they produced.
As a fan of all things theatre I sat in the front row grinning from ear to ear throughout this wonderful celebration of musicals. Even if you’ve never seen a Broadway or West End show I’m confident you would be singing, humming or tapping along to most, if not all, the numbers. These are songs that have traversed generations and become part of our shared culture. I’ve also learnt tonight they are all the products of Jewish composers and song writers, perhaps proving that, indeed, ‘You Won’t Succeed On Broadway If You Don’t Have Any Jews’.