Heavy, but sweet

The English concert version of the French musical 'Salt & Honey' premieres in Jerusalem, hoping to touch all types of people with its tale of rebirth after the Holocaust.

salt and honey 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
salt and honey 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Holocaust survivor accounts and anecdotes of Israeli pioneers might not necessarily sound like a plotline for a hit musical theater production. But the French production team behind Salt & Honey has proven that a touching story is exactly what audiences are keen on. "This is a musical about identity. You don't have to be Jewish to search for your identity," says Sophie Guerin, production manager for the new English-language version of the show. "Just like everyone can connect to The Color Purple even if you're not black, so, too, can everyone feel connected to this story." Salt & Honey got its start 10 years ago. The show is based on 1,000 documented true stories of Holocaust survivors and Israeli pioneers. The musical traces the stories of fictional characters Samuel and Rebecca, from their childhood meeting amidst the horror and despair of the Auschwitz death camp, through their struggles to build a new life and land in pre-state Palestine. Haunted by their memories and fearful of their future struggles, they find love and hope through their reunion aboard a clandestine post-war ship bound for Palestine. It is a poetic love story, a "story of tragedy and triumph, of despair and hope," says Guerin. "It's a love story about two characters with history as a backdrop," she says. "I know it's a heavy topic, but there are other musicals with intense topics, like Miss Saigon. For us, it's a way of telling the story of the building of the State of Israel. We have found that people are ready to listen to the story of the creation of the state and to learn about the Jewish people." When the show first took the stage, it was aimed at the Jewish community. But as time went by, non-Jewish audiences started filling the halls, "attracted by the catchy songs and elaborate stage sets," says Guerin. The new English version of Salt & Honey is a concert adaptation. Whereas the full musical theater production includes over 30 tunes, the concert version comprises 13 songs. The concert edition also includes an historical multimedia installation, musical performances and dance. Designated as one of Israel's official 60th anniversary celebratory productions, the English-language version will hold its world premiere at the Hebrew University-Mount Scopus Amphitheater on June 26. Taking part in the Jerusalem event are the 60-piece Ra'anana Symphonette Orchestra, dancer and choreographer Ido Tadmor, Dudu Fisher, singer Shirel, French singer Jeanne Manson and authors Bernard Bitan and Laurent Bentata, among others. From Jerusalem, the production will continue to European and North American stages. "This project expresses for me why I'm in Israel, the Zionist part of me," says Guerin, who made aliya from France 11 years ago. "This is the first time I can express my feelings in my work." Guerin sums up: "We expect people to love the musical as much as we enjoy doing it. We hope people will be moved by the story. And we hope audiences will see Israel a bit differently than what they see in the media." Salt & Honey has its world premiere in English on June 26 in Jerusalem. Tickets can be bought at agencies throughout the country.