Mike, a drama based on singer Mike Brant's life, has started rehearsals at Beit Lessin with Dan Shapira in the title role and music by Gadi Inbar. The director is Micha Lewensohn.
Brant (whose greatest hit, "Laisse Moi T'aimer," can be seen on YouTube) was only 28 when he jumped to his death from a window in his Paris home in 1975.
"This isn't just the story of Mike's life," says Lewensohn, "but a parable on success and the price it exacts."
Mike's parents, Bronia (Yona Elian) and Fischel (Shlomo Vishinsky) Brand (their name is spelled differently), were Holocaust survivors. Mike was born "Moshe" at a British camp in Cyprus in 1947. They arrived in mandatory Palestine that same year and settled in Haifa. At 17, Moshe was singing at parties and clubs in his brother's group, Chocolates. Impresario Yonatan Karmon heard him, and grabbed the group for a US and South African tour. In 1969, French singer Sylvie Vartan heard him at the Teheran Hilton.
"Come to France," she told him. "You could be really big there, and we'll help you."
He did, and by 1971 he was an international heartthrob known as Mike Brant. Everywhere he sang he was mobbed - except for Israel. International pop hadn't hit yet. Israeli singers were supposed to sing in Hebrew. It was the era of the great army troupes and Hebrew song. Brant sang in French and English.
To this day the reasons for Brant's suicide are unclear. This isn't the first play his life inspired, though. Eldad Ziv wrote and directed the long-running Laisse Moi T'aimer for the Jerusalem Khan in 1991.
Playwright Gadi Inbar and Zvi Brand (Brant's brother) have been friends for 22 years and often spoke of a possible play. Mike has been two years in the making, and Brand says that's he's had excited queries from Brant fans all over the world, including one in Syria who wrote, "If all the Israelis are like Mike, we like them."
Mike opens at Beit Lessin January 26.
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