If anything, Israeli singer Dudu Fisher says he wants to cut down his workload.
With a career that spans more than 30 years and covers several continents, the
60-year-old performer, who spends three-quarters of his time abroad, wants to
spend more time with his family in Israel. And yet he has just ventured into new
territory in Branson, Missouri, in the heart of the American Bible Belt, and he
couldn’t be more excited about it.
Recently returned from Poland, where
he participated in the annual March of the Living, Fisher spent a week in Israel
before heading off to Branson to perform his one-man show Jerusalem from May 1 to
For Fisher the March of the Living, Jerusalem and the Christian world
are all intertwined. Fisher’s father is a Holocaust survivor who, along with 16
members of his family, was saved by a Christian family in Poland. Later honored
as Righteous Gentiles, Alfred and Maria Kwarchak hid the Jewish family in a
bunker for 18 months during the war.
This year’s March of the Living was
particularly moving, says Fisher, as the group that went to Poland included 15
US Army veterans who had taken part in liberating the concentration
Now in their 90s, the men were dressed in full uniform for the
special ceremony held in Krakow. As they took to the stage, they received a
standing ovation that lasted for 10 minutes.
And when the band played the
American national anthem, the men snapped to attention and saluted. They stood
so straight and saluted with such precision that they looked like 19-year-olds
again, says Fisher. But the most emotional part was when a man who had been
liberated by those very soldiers walked on stage and made a speech that brought
the audience to tears.
When the March of the Living group came to Israel
for the last leg of the trip, Fisher performed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
and in Latrun on Israel’s Independence Day.
To Fisher, who was born in
Petah Tikva and makes his home there to this day, Jerusalem is a place of
“For me, it is still a city that exists in the holy texts,” says
Fisher, who wears a knitted kippa. “I love to visit whenever I can. We go for a
holiday of three or four days and hire a guide to show us some of the special
places,” says Fisher, who is married and has three children and three
As the Israeli capital holds such a special place in his
heart, the performer created a vehicle in which to sing its praises. Developed
three years ago, Jerusalem is a one-man show where Fisher, accompanied by a
seven-piece band, sings songs, tells stories and displays videos about the Holy
No stranger to the stage, Fisher has been performing since he was
in his 20s. A prolific and poly-genre singer, his spectrum ranges from
cantorial, Hassidic and operatic music to country, pop, rock and reggae. The
lyric tenor, who speaks three languages and sings in 10, has released more than
He is particularly well known for his children’s DVDs, which
teach kids about Jewish customs and traditions.
“Unfortunately, in Israel
we are raising kids who don’t know anything about the holidays or anything,”
says Fisher. “So when a non-observant person tells me that his children love my
DVDs, that makes me feel great. I’m not asking them to be religious, but at
least they will know about the Four Species, Shabbat, Pessah,
Fisher starred as Jean Valjean in the musical Les Miserables in
1993-4 and made a name for himself as the first Israeli to perform in a
non-Jewish themed play on Broadway and London’s West End. He was also the first
and only stage actor to be permitted to not perform on Friday nights and
Saturdays due to his religious beliefs. In fact, he created a one-man show
Off-Broadway called Never on Friday in which he recounts his experiences as a
religious Jew on the Great White Way.
When Fisher created his show
Jerusalem, it was originally intended for a Jewish audience, but he and his
musical director Shai Bachar have also adapted it for the growing Christian
evangelical population that Fisher has been working with.
traveled to such places as Stockholm, Singapore and Sao Paolo to give concerts,
Fisher says he was amazed to see Christians – children and adults alike – waving
Israeli flags, dancing the hora and singing songs like “Mashiach” and “Anu Banu
In the US, Fisher began to get closer to the evangelical
population through Pastor John Hagee, who founded the national organization
Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
“In the United States, there are
about 60 to 80 million evangelicals, and the number is growing all over the
world,” says Fisher. “People in Israel don’t understand how much support we
receive from them.”
Not only do they support Israel financially by
donating money for children, soldiers and the needy, but they also lobby for
Israel on the political front, he explains.
“You can’t buy that kind of
support for money,” says Fisher.
And, contrary to what his rabbinic
detractors believe, Fisher asserts that the evangelical Christians do not have a
hidden agenda of wanting to convert Jews to Christianity. Rather, they stand by
the tenet, derived directly from Genesis, “Whoever blesses Israel will be
blessed; whoever curses Israel will be cursed.”
IN NOVEMBER of 2010,
Fisher was invited to Montrose, Colorado, to perform half of his Jerusalem show
as part of an evening dedicated to honoring Israel. It was held at an
evangelical ministry established by Victoria Hearst (granddaughter of media
mogul William Randolph Hearst and sister of Patty Hearst). After the show,
Hearst introduced Fisher to the woman who was her mentor, Pastor Billye
“You should come see Branson,” Brim told Fisher. “Who’s
Branson?” he said.
“Not who – what,” she replied. “Google ‘Branson.com,’
then call me.”
Duly intrigued, he looked it up and was amazed at what he
learned about the place. “I saw something I never saw before,” Fisher
Established in the early 1900s, Branson, Missouri, is city that
has a population of 11,000 and an influx of eight million tourists a year. An
entertainment hub of the Midwest, it has some 50 theaters (ranging in capacity
from 200 to 6,000) and more theater seats than Broadway. The Las Vegas of the
Bible Belt – without the crime and the casinos – the venue has been headlining
major entertainers for decades.
More than duly impressed, Fisher went to
Branson to check it out, and Brim sent two guides to show him around.
night he went to see a show at the Hughes Brothers Theater, home of the world’s
largest performing family.
“I wanted to see the musicians, the lighting,
the acoustics,” he says. “All the theaters there are family-owned,” says Fisher,
so the young woman who sold him a ticket at the entrance also danced in the show
and manned the snack bar during intermission.
And, as everyone in Branson
is also very friendly, Fisher says, she asked him his name and where he was
Much to Fisher’s surprise, in the middle of the song and dance
show, one of the Hughes Brothers said to the audience, “We have a special guest
here tonight from Israel – Dudu Fisher.”
Then the man took a double take
at the note in his hand and said, “Really? ‘Dudu’? What kind of name is that?”
he asked, even more shocked by the scatalogical-sounding moniker than Fisher was
by the unexpected introduction.
Dubious name aside, Fisher received a
standing ovation from the crowd because he was an Israeli.
When he was
asked what he did in Israel, he said he was a singer. Then he added, “Maybe I’ll
bring a show about Jerusalem here.”
True to his word, on September 20 of
2011 Fisher performed one trial show of Jerusalem in Branson. He did a lot of
promotional prep work beforehand, giving interviews to the media and handing out
tickets to people who dealt with the public, such as hotel concierges and taxi
drivers. His efforts more than paid off, as 1,100 people attended the
“It was a big thing for me,” Fisher recounts. “I never had
an experience like that in my life,” says the entertainer, referring to the avid
enthusiasm of the crowd and their eagerness to see, to hear and to learn about
“I would teach them a song, and they would sing it,” he says.
“And I would teach them things they never knew, such as the fact that the word
‘hallelujah,’ a term they use all the time, is actually a combination of two
Not only that, but the show is so rousing, with its mix of
Hebrew songs, reggae, soulful ballads and rollicking rock tunes, that audience
members get up and dance in the aisles, says Fisher.
The next day, the
show was the talk of the town. Thus inspired, Fisher booked the 750-seat
Caravelle Theater for his current run of May 1-20, as well as October 1- 21. To
date, he is the first Israeli singer to perform in Branson.
Most of his
performances will be weekday matinees, he explains, as many of the tourists go
to Branson on package tours, which include pre-paid tickets to evening
performances. He hopes that when they find out that Jerusalem is on the roster,
they will take time in the afternoon to go and see it.
“My gut tells me
this is a wonderful opportunity,” says Fisher. “And I think it will be a great
thing for the country, for Israel. I hope it will encourage