There can’t be many better ways to banish them than lingering pandemic blues than getting yourself out of the house and over to a show packed with merry musical numbers and joyful repartee.
All that and more can be had at Yad Lebanim House in Tel Aviv later this month when The Stage performs a new version of its popular comedic English-language musical revue Miscast. This is the fourth incarnation of the production set in the world of the corporate office of the delightfully named Generally Vague Organization. The show follows the antics of its corporation’s employees with a storyline punctuated by songs from hit musicals such as Hamilton, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.
The Stage has been around for over eight years now, putting out a diverse spread of entertaining and educational fare in the process. The Tel Aviv-based performing arts outfit tends to go the eclectic route, with its bulging portfolio to date taking in large theatrical productions, musicals, standup comedy slots, poetry slams, storytelling and open mic nights.
The company also likes to spread the creative word as far and wide as it can, and attract new talent to its gates. The website blurb notes it holds workshops “for writing, acting, directing, improv, stand-up comedy, musical theater and more.” It also describes The Stage as “a volunteer-based community dedicated to creating a platform for anyone to turn their artistic ambition, small or large, into reality.” Sounds perfectly delightful and the stuff Hollywood dreams are made of – well, Tel Aviv, English-language theatrical dreams.
The new Miscast offering is, naturally, the first The Stage show for a while but not the first since COVID-19 first appeared on our horizon. “We did a great production of Neil Simon’s Rumors,” recalls former Chicagoan Becky Brothman who serves as the group’s executive director. Things went well. “It was just after things got a little easier with all the lockdowns and that. And when we could put on shows for a while, we got audiences of over 400 for that.”
Rumors went through a protracted gestation period. “We worked on it during the course of nine months because of all the COVID-19 postponements,” Brothman recalls. “It was a departure from our normal repertoire. It was great to do something that was of Broadway caliber. We had so much time to learn the lines and get everything done.”
And now Brothman and the rest of the gang are back in more familiar territory. “This is the fourth time we have done this particular concept,” she notes. “Miscast has actually been done off-Broadway by a company from New York and they performed songs from different Broadway musicals that they wouldn’t normally be cast for.”
By now it was becoming clear that the musical revue was something of a left-field project. “Originally, it was a lot of female singers singing male songs and vice versa. It was supposed to be a one-off special night,” Brothman explains.
That may have been the initial intent, but The Stage picked up on that notion and ran with it, again and again. “We have taken the concept and created a whole theme around it. It is much more involved, changing the gender of who is singing it.” There are even more strata to the project. “We take the music out of the original context and make it work for the storyline that we have. We have songs from all different musicals and we put it all into the world of a corporate office and the employees sing the songs over the course of the normal day’s work.” Well, it’s not entirely a regular day. “There is a new employee who is introduced to all the different departments and workers, who sing the songs.”
There is an abundance of witty banter in the “genre-bending musical revue” which, as The Stage informational material puts it “takes your expectations about who should sing what kind of song and turns them on their head, putting a whole new spin on Broadway classics.”
There is a generous rollout of the latter, selected by director Michal Peer, who made aliyah from the States in 2018. There are plenty of toe-tappers in the musical mix, including golden oldies such as “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof, the theme song from 9 to 5, “Money Money Money” from Mama Mia and the definitively romantic “Maria” from the 1950s classic West Side Story.
Brothman fully expects the audience members to get on board from the off, regardless of their knowledge of the base material. “I think most of them will be familiar with the songs. But, even the ones that are less well known are so catchy. For sure, people will know the classics. But Michal chose from newer musicals which I’d heard of but I didn’t know myself. But, even if you don’t know them, you pick up on them really fast.”
The Stage is more than a bunch of people dedicated to putting together entertaining productions for the public. “Our community has people from all over,” Brothman explains. “We have a lot of sabra Israelis involved, and we get a lot of people who don’t know English as a native language. We have cast members from Argentina, Russia, France, the United States, the UK, Canada, everywhere.”
Regardless of cultural roots and language backdrop, everyone who joins in a The Stage project has a common goal, with some side benefits to be enjoyed, too. “This brings people together and builds up a community,” says Brothman. “There are people from all over the country that don’t often get an outlet to be creative. And they have fun, too,” she laughs. “People get a chance to perform and make new friends, in English, in Tel Aviv, in Israel.”
Brothman says the Yad Lebanim House audiences can look forward to something of a musical and thematic roller coaster. Then again they may not hear the versions of some of the hits they have been humming to themselves down the years. “We take, for example, a pop or rock musical number and do it in an operatic style.” Brothman has the proof of that performance pudding close to home. “My husband, Noam Mor, is in the show and he is a trained opera singer. And Michal is classically trained. All the songs are a lot of fun.” Not a bad bottom line.
Miscast will be performed at Yad Lebanim House in Tel Aviv on March 15 (8 p.m.), March 23 (8 p.m.) and March 25 (12:30 p.m.). For tickets and more information, contact: https://www.thestagetlv.com/miscast.