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You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews
St. James Theatre
29th August 2015


The ensemble in You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews

Photography © Pamela Raith

The popular jukebox musical format can often suffer from a weak plot which too tenuously holds the songs together, leading many to ask "why not just play the songs and never mind the weak story?" Well, a bunch of clever schmucks have now done just that, or near enough as to not make a difference. You Won't Succeed On Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews is simply a showcase of a very small percentage of the work which has passed through Broadway and was written by Jews. A high proportion of all the work done on Broadway has had Jewish songwriters behind the scenes, though from watching this two and half hour extravaganza cooked up by Collaborative Artists' Daniel Donskoy and Michaela Stern, you might wonder if there were any non-Jewish writers at all.

The story, such as it is, comes in the form of eight short voice-overs that are almost advertisements for Jewish success stories such as Rogers and Hammerstein, The Gershwins, Sondheim... the list goes on. These form a diorama of the historical background of the various eras, although from a very American perspective. (Hardly surprising, Broadway is in New York, after all). As a show then, all there really is to discuss is the singing and dancing... When You Wish Upon a Weinstein and all that. Isn't this what we wanted?

The production features a pleasingly varied range of styles and singers, from the floaty soprano (Sophie Evans in Somewhere Over the Rainbow) to the lusty baritone (John Barr in A House Is Not A Home). The performers all throw themselves wholeheartedly into every song, with musical director Inga Davis-Rutter ensuring they convey the strength of emotion the fabulous melodies deserve. There are places where we see some slightly unusual but effective choices, such as Everything's Coming Up Roses, normally sung by Rose in Gypsy, but taken by baritone Danny Lane.

Davis-Rutter's use of so many styles does meant that some singers are prevented from sticking to their specialties: take Mira Ormala, she operatically dominates I Could Have Danced All Night, but shakes vibrato over many more lyrical sections. Lloyd Daniels also gets caught out with Caught In The Storm (from Smash), which just needs a bit more raunchiness to give it that edge. Having said that, his purer voice is better matched against David Albury's vocals in All Good Gifts (from Godspell) and Yiftach Mizrahi in Oh What A Beautiful Morning, especially with the very satisfying harmonies.

Some of the numbers have a comical twist to them, both in choreography and singing style (Be Our Guest from Beauty And The Beast and Chicago), but for us, the stand out numbers are undoubtedly the comedy songs. Sarah Earnshaw and Alex Marshall's performance of Getting Married Today and the ensemble's You Can't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews are packed full of humour. The associated dancing is also of a high standard with plenty of high-tech dance moves. Chris Whittaker's choreography cleverly interacts with many of the songs like Cabaret and Hey Big Spender.

Obviously, the nature of this show means it's a bit Marmitey. Those who don't enjoy show tunes will find this some kind of personal hell (Philistines - oh yes, pun intended). Those however who find joy in big numbers belted out with skill and enthusiasm will find You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews a glorious night out.

You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews opened on 25th August and runs until 5th September 2015 at the St. James Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Victoria (Victoria, Circle, District)

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