saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews
The Garrick Theatre
8th February 2015
Photography provided by Collaborative Artists
You know those days when everything seems to go wrong? With a raging headache, I headed for the Tube only to discover three stops in that there were unpublicised severe delays on the line, and I'd never make it into central London the usual way. After hurriedly replanning my journey, I legged it to The Garrick where there was a massive crowd spilling out onto the pavement - naturally after queuing, it turned out the Box Office had lost my ticket. None of this boded well. When the show finally started - a touch late, of course - the sound failed to kick in properly. If I wanted to go back to bed and pull the duvet over my head and silently weep, you can only imagine how the sound technicians must have felt.
You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews was meant to be an evening showcasing some of the best showtunes by Jewish artists. Which is to say some of the best showtunes in the business. Unfortunately, nearly all the performers fell victim to a microphone failure at least once. To their great credit, it was obvious things were not going well and yet their collective veneer of professionalism never once cracked. Not even a little. Those in the middle of an upbeat number kept smiling, those whose voices couldn't be heard at all over the band kept on singing and dancing. You do have to wonder why no stagehands were spotted running on set with a hand-held mic - whilst many of the numbers involved a certain amount of choreography, the performers could have and would have worked around the extra wires. There was no Plan B. Or C.
What there was in terms of letters, however, was a decent MC in the form of Joe Bor, which helped the proceedings. The Jewish (are you surprised?) comedian openly acknowledged the ongoing problems which fostered a very British "hey, we know it's rubbish, but let's make the most of it" spirit. Although we couldn't always hear all of the singers, we could hear enough to know there was some serious talent in front of us, and you could not fault their commitment. If any of them had given up and run off into the wings, you would have forgiven them. It would have been so easy to lose the audience in the circumstances, but Bor and the company made sure that we had a good time regardless of the issues. It's a shame we couldn't enjoy the show as co-directors Daniel Donskoy and Michaela Stern intended, but if we still felt entertained with horrifically patchy sound, just imagine what Collaborative Artists could do on a good night.
Highlights included Donskoy singing Caught in the Storm and Jackie Marks performing I Dreamed a Dream, both incredibly emotionally charged. Having seen Donskoy work with All Star Productions before, I knew he was something special, but Marks was a new revelation. There was also a lot of humour in Not Getting Married Today, with Natasha Karp a hilariously reluctant bride getting her fast-paced lines spot on and - in somewhat of a miracle - getting herself heard. The choreography by Chris Whittaker certainly helped rescue the show - the movements in numbers such as Fame's There She Goes were such fun to watch. Throughout, Whittaker's sequences were simple but effective, making good use of the large ensemble.
Although the performers had sound issues, musical director Matt Ramplin led the band to victory in the bloody battlefield of failing tech. Seated at the back of the stage, the musicians nailed every tune, with the acoustics of The Garrick working out well for them, even if the ensemble had no such luck. Can't win them all apparently.
The problem with one-night only shows is that you don't have what is basically a warm up period: you have to get it right from the word go. Although this wasn't quite the masterpiece I was hoping for, it certainly hasn't dampened my enthusiasm towards this new company. At one point there were 30-something or maybe even 40-something people on stage, all pouring their heart and soul into their music, and you just know with a passion like that, whoever is truly to blame for the poor sound has probably already been hounded out of town by a (not unjustifiably) angry mob with flaming torches. This can't happen again, and I genuinely don't think it will happen again.
I've only experienced a fraction of this company's potential, and I just know they have a better show in them to give. This was their debut production and it wasn't alright on the night, but it's obvious that Collaborative Artists are a group of talented, resilient performers who are itching to show London what they can really do. I don't know when that moment is going to come, but I am ridiculously excited at its prospect. As for Broadway, or even London's own West End, you won't succeed unless you have functioning tech. A lesson for next time.
You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews ran on 8th February 2015 at The Garrick Theatre.
Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)