An over-the-top celebration of Broadway’s Jews

‘You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews’ has its heart in the right place, but goes a little overboard in its enthusiastic tribute to the legendary composers of the Great White Way.

You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews (photo credit: ARKADY MAZOR)
You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews
(photo credit: ARKADY MAZOR)
The poster for You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews displays the show’s title in the flashy marquee spotlights you’d come to expect from a production celebrating the best of Broadway. Front and center though, in huge boldface letters, is emphasis on “Jews.” Those four letters, which dwarf the rest of the words, seems unnecessarily exaggerated.
Unfortunately, the poster ultimately is a symbol of the tone of the production itself – well meaning, with its heart in the right place, but forcefully driving home the point that, hey, this is all about THE JEWS and not really about the amazing work they have done.
The UK production, which took place at the Jeannette and Yehuda Assia Auditorium at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Tuesday, originally premiered at the West End’s Garrick Theater and is the brainchild of Collaborative Artists Ltd. and the English National Theatre of Israel, which strives to bolster English-language shows here.
The show chronicles Jewish contributions to Broadway from the 1930s to today. George Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein are the pillars of the musical theater and are natural (if not obvious) choices for a show celebrating Jewish composers on Broadway.
But it is the inclusion of the likes of Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast) and Jonathan Larson (Rent) that offers contemporary and surprising examples as well.
The cast and crew is comprised of both Israelis and Brits (all of whom are Jewish), and on paper, that cultural crossover should be an entertaining one. And, for the most part, it is.
West End veteran Jackie Marsh certainly brought the house down when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.
And when Yiftach Mizrachi sang Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest,” his jubilant delivery was so infectious that the two small boys sitting in front of this reporter excitedly clapped along to the famous Disney anthem. And Mira Ormala expertly tapped into Eliza Doolitle’s air of both naiveté and glee during her performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady.
But some aspects of the show were a tad amateurish and rough around the edges. It was a little jarring hearing a fullblown Israeli accent sing the refined “Luck Be a Lady.” It was as if Eyal Golan was performing the classic instead of Old Blue Eyes himself, which could have worked if it was performed as a joke and not a straight tribute to the treasured Broadway standard.
The strangest performance though, was saved for the end, where the entire ensemble performed a song titled after the production’s namesake. “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” was an entirely unnecessary, kitschy mess. On a night letting the work of these amazing artists speak for itself, why is a song highlighting that they are all Jews even necessary? The unfortunate and forced moment could have easily been glossed over.
Next month, the show will return to the West End, where hopefully the schmaltz factor will be toned down and the soaring and uplifting Broadway hits that audiences have come to love for the past eight decades can shine on their own.