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‘You won’t succeed on Broadway, if you Don’t Have Any Jews’: celebrating Jewish culture through songs

PUBLISHED: 15:00 30 January 2016

'You won't succeed on Broadway, if you don't have any Jews' is shortlisted for one of the UK's biggest theatre awards

'You won't succeed on Broadway, if you don't have any Jews' is shortlisted for one of the UK's biggest theatre awards

Archant

Dream Girls, Hairspray, Chicago and Wicked, all these musicals have one thing in common – their music was written by Jewish composers.

And that is what Ilford actress and producer Michaela Stern, 23, decided to make her own musical about.

You Won’t Succeed on Broadway, if You Don’t Have Any Jews is a journey through the history of Broadway, from the 1920s to today, opening windows on scenes from New York’s iconic shows.

“It’s an evening of glamour and showbiz,” said Michaela. “A treat for the eyes and ears.”

Michaela, whose last role was as Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act, and her co-creative director Daniel Donskoy, 26, from Germany, both Jewish, met in a show in the West End and aspired to produce their own.

In December last year, they created the Collaborative Artists production company, just a year after Michaela graduated from the Musical Theatre Academy, London.

The producer developed a passion for singing and acting from a young age and spent most of her childhood in the Kenneth More Theatre, Oakfield Road, Ilford, where she took part in plenty of performances.

Aged 15, she left King Solomon High School, Forest Road, Barkingside, after gaining a place at Arts Educational Schools London, Chiswick.

The name of Michaela’s show comes from the lyrics of a song in the musical comedy Spamalot, called You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.

Spamalot is adapted from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

“It is a time when there is a lot of racism all over the world and Jews are often at the forefront of it,” said Michaela.

“We wanted to do a show about our culture and our community in a better light.”

Michaela and Daniel had imagined putting on cabaret evenings, featuring songs from musicals written exclusively by Jewish composers, but it did not take them long to realised the show “deserved much more than a cabaret night”.

After a bit of research, the pair realised most of Broadway’s flagship musicals were composed by Jewish people.

With the help of director Evan Ensign, and choreographer Chris Whittaker, they turned the cabaret they had imagined into a fully-fledged musical.

“When everybody sings together it creates such a community and unity,” said Michaela.

“Throughout time, music has always brought people together, no matter where they are from and no matter their religion.”

The producer described the musical as a show “for everyone”, from which you will “come out still singing the songs and clapping your hands”.

The cast performed a one-off concert at the Garrick Theatre in the West End, before heading off on a three-week international tour in Tel Aviv, Israel, and holding a short run at the St James Theatre, Victoria.

Michaela said the performances in Israel were “really popular”.

“We had a standing ovation every night,” she added.

The producer hopes to bring the show back to London for a longer run, with her mind set on getting it a spot in a West End theatre.

The show has also been shortlisted for the Best Off-West End Production prize at the WhatsOnStage Awards, one of the biggest theatre awards in the UK. Michaela said as a pair of young performers and new producers, she and Daniel “couldn’t believe” they had been nominated.

“I would love for my local community to help me and help a local girl take her show to the West End,” she added.

To vote, visit awards.whatsonstage.com. The winners will be announced on February 23.


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