The phrase ‘You won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews’, initially coined by Eric Idle in his Monty Python musical Spamalot remains evermore relevant and we can be grateful for it too. Names such as George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Coleman, Schwartz and Menken, among others, have dominated the musical world over the last century to bring audiences everywhere some show tune classics.
You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews takes its audiences on a fascinating journey through time, starting in the 1930s, parading the phenomenal impact that the Jewish community has had on Broadway shows and shaping them into what we know and love today. Essentially, the aim of this show is purely a celebration of Jewish composers in the theatre world.
Taking a chronological approach, the show is split into decades with each one introduced through a short animated film clip that covers the history of Broadway, the Jewish community on Broadway and American history. This gives an opportunity to give a mention to the shows that clearly didn’t make the final song list cut. Regardless of each audience member’s background, these clips are a brilliantly effective way of bringing all theatre lovers together in appreciation of their favourite musicals. The other marvellous aspect of this show is whether you grew up in the 1950s or 1990s there is something that will bring back fond memories for everyone.
The show has a perfect selection of songs that cover the scope of some of the best of Broadway. Sophie Evans reunites with ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz in a stunningly beautiful performance. Danny Lane create a lasting memory with his outstanding take on Gypsy’s ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses’. Yiftach Mizarahi’s highly energetic ‘Luck Be a Lady’ from Guys and Dolls is highly entertaining. Jackie Mark revives her role as Fantine singing Les Miserables’ ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ in a way that will tug at the heart strings of even the most emotionless person. Sarah Earnshaw and John Barr really know how to make an audience laugh with her witty ‘Getting Married Today’ from Company and his Lumiere impression in ‘Be Our Guest’ from Beauty and the Beast.
The whole cast performs sensationally together in brilliant songs such as Fiddler on the Roof’s ‘Tradition’ and the show’s title song that leaves the audience dancing out the auditorium. The dancers, who accompany this wonderful cast, are truly remarkable. Their flexibility, movement and rhythm are perfect and they are a great addition to this show.
I could have happily sat there for a few more hours if they had wanted to include every Jewish composer of Broadway shows. It’s a fun-filled performance with a perfect spectrum of the best of Broadway. It is completely and utterly charming from curtain up to curtain down.
You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews plays the St James Theatre until 5 September. For more info, see the St James Theatre website. Photo by Pamela Raith.