(photo credit: Gura Berger)
Taking on the subject of Jerusalem and lofty ideas like personal transformation
in the framework of a musical comedy is recipe for disaster.
Oh, and did
I mention time travel? But somehow, whether due to the involvement of Hollywood
pro Bernie Kukoff or just a good old-fashioned Kotel-inspired miracle, Ah,
Jerusalem! pulls it off with whimsy, charm and grace.
Hoping to establish
a “must-see” stop on any tourist’s sojourn to Jerusalem, Kukoff and his creative
partner, Jerusalem-based composer and musical director Danny Paller have created
an enjoyable, light-hearted romp through history.
Consisting of part Neil
Simon romantic couple comedy, part Monty Python visuals (the Crusader scene) and
lots of witty, good-natured repartee in both dialogue and musical numbers, Ah,
Jerusalem! triumphs on the likability of its cast.
Without an edgy bone
in their collective bodies, the little- known players are led by Nitzan Sitzer
in the role of Charles Axelrod, an American Jew from Indianapolis who receives a
vision from his Uncle Mordechai to abandon his vacation plans in Cancun to
redeem his family’s Jewish heritage in Jerusalem.
nerd persona gives way to crowd-pleasing comic timing and excellent dancing, a
trait shared by Gady Weissbart, whose hassidic apparition Uncle Mordechai steals
the early part of the show with his Yiddish rapping ability.
potentially awkward trips back in time to the days of King Solomon, a Crusader
castle and a 1922 pre-state Israel by Axelrod and his wife and daughter – played
by Roni Yacobovitz and Miri Fraenkel respectively – are handled skillfully,
probably thanks to Kukoff’s decades of experience with pacing on TV shows and on
To its credit, and maybe to its detriment, the show doesn’t
really delve into the life-changing experiences that many people go through in
discovering their Jewish roots. That rather superficial approach – these
assimilated Jews learn about their heritage and Israel, then what – suits the
confines of the musical comedy genre better than a deep-issue discourse that
results in the show’s hero growing peyot and donning a kippa. Still, it would
have given the professionally performed 75 minutes of entertainment a little
more oomph if something like that did take place.
As enjoyable and
welcome on the Jerusalem cultural landscape as it is, Ah, Jerusalem! isn’t
likely to evoke many ‘wow!’ reactions from the satisfied audience. More likely
it will be “ah, nice.”
Ah, Jerusalem! is performed every Sunday and