Four Jews in a room bitching. It might sound like the start of a particularly tasteless joke, but it’s actually the opening number of William Finn’s 1981 Off-Broadway hit March of the Falsettos (which then subsequently transferred to The Great White Way). If you don’t know it, well shame on you. You should. Go out and buy a copy today, or better still head down to the St James Theatre where a rather good rendition of the song appears in the second half of ‘You Won’t Succeed On Broadway If You Don’t Have Any Jews’, the revue which has just opened there following an initial engagement in Tel Aviv.
The show aims straightforwardly to give an overview of Broadway musicals from the 1930’s to the present day, decade by decade, with some background on the writers and their shows, and a talented – and it must be said at 18, a large – cast perform numbers indicative of the decades discussed. 1930’s to 1960’s in the first half, 1970’s to the present in the second. As an idea for holding a revue together it works fairly well, and with the limited time available the choices of song will inevitably mean there are composers whose work isn’t going to be represented, however, there’s a gaping hole in this selection, more of which later.
The show starts nicely enough, with a full company number, ‘I Got Rhythm’ (Crazy For You), followed up by ‘Summertime’ (Porgy and Bess), and ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ (Babes in Arms), to represent the 1930’s.
The 1940’s start off with ‘Oh what a Beautiful Morning’ (Oklahoma) in a nice three part arrangement, a well executed ‘There’s No Business like Show Business’ (Annie Get Your Gun), then ‘Over The Rainbow’ (The Wizard of Oz), which would have benefitted from a little more work on diction, as it came across as ‘Someweah Rover The Rainbow’. Although I’ve singled out this particular song, the singing throughout was what might be termed ‘modern’, with scoops and slides to notes, and excessive and unwanted X-Factor-style melisma applied to songs which were never designed to have it inflicted upon them…But I digress…
The show really comes alive in the 1950’s section with two men, Yiftach Mizrahi, and Danny Lane. Fronting up the section Mizrahi sings ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight’ (Guys And Dolls) proving himself a more than adequate triple threat. He’s not only a joy to watch and listen to, but makes you believe. He has charisma. I hope we see him again soon.
After ‘I Could have danced All Night’ (My Fair Lady) – ending on an excellent money note from Mira Ormala – the unusual, but brilliant casting of Danny Lane to sing ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’. Lane not only has an admirably powerful voice, but like Mizrahi throws everything he’s got into the song.
The 1960’s are represented by songs from Sweet Charity, Promises, Promises, Cabaret, and inevitably the act finishes with a rousing full-company rendition of ‘Tradition’ from Fiddler on the Roof, where again Mizrahi stands out.
In the second half we head through songs from Chicago, Company, Godspell (why?) for the 1970’s, Les Miserables, Fame, and Yentel (again, why?), for the 1980’s, the aforementioned March of the Falsettos, Rent, Parade, and Beauty and the Beast for the 1990’s, and turning the century finish off with songs from Hairspray, Smash, and Dreamgirls (as well as a certain song from Spamalot…).
So, where’s the gaping hole, you ask? Well, if I said Mame, Hello Dolly, and La Cage aux Folles you’d realise I was talking about multi-award winning Jewish composer and lyricist Jerry Herman. I could understand not having the space or the inclination to include songs from the shows I’ve mentioned (which between them won 19 Tony Awards!) but their creator is literally not mentioned in this revue. Shame on you!
I should also just like to mention the wonderful Sarah Earnshaw whose rendition of ‘Getting Married Today’ brought the house down, and also the astonishing dance moves of the frankly too handsome Kevin Jack.
There didn’t appear to be a monitor in the auditorium, which could account for some of the timing issues (the band is behind the performers) but overall I enjoyed the show.