Finally, theater has reopened in Jerusalem.
After a seemingly endless period of empty theater houses, live performances, with restrictions, has returned.
Over the past corona year, the Beit Hillel Theater Workshop at Hebrew University successfully produced Aida and Disney, Live in Concert to the enjoyment of a large appreciative audiences thirsty for the sensation of live performance.
For this Hanukkah, the workshop will premier Disney’s The Little Mermaid, scheduled to run for nine performances at the Rachel Simon Hillel Theater at Beit Hillel, Hebrew University, Mount Scopus.
The Beit Hillel Theater Workshop’s first production took place nearly four decades ago, in a lecture hall with metal chairs, limited lighting, and no backstage. Nearly 1,500 actors and 500 performances later, the Rachel Simon Hillel Theater is replete with a director/producer, music director, choreographer, technical director, set designer, marketing coordinator, theater seats, acoustic walls, full stage lighting, and professional dressing rooms.
The Little Mermaid
The name Disney is associated with heroes, heroines, demons, and characters with magical powers. Disney motion pictures, animated or live, are replete with brilliant musical scores, creative effects, and huge splashes of color. In most cases they contain simple themes and story lines, with predictable climaxes and endings that are designed for family entertainment of all ages.
Most notable are the Disney songs. In each Disney production, there is always “the song,” the lyrical balled that captivates audiences and becomes iconic overnight: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Circle of Love,” “A Whole New World,” “Colors of the World,” “I Can Go the Distance,” and “Let it Go,” to name just a few. True to form, The Little Mermaid follows all the classic Disney formats, from simple storyline to a memorable musical score by Alan Menken, composer of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Little Shop of Horrors, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Newsies, Enchanted, and Tangled.
The Little Mermaid is the fantasy about Ariel, a disillusioned mermaid who can no longer find meaning, or comfort, living under the sea. She longs to become human and live in a more challenging, creative, and adventurous world. She finds love with Eric, a human prince, which makes her dilemma more acute. She strikes a deal with her wicked devilish aunt, Ursula, to become human. In this production the song that is the most reflective, beautiful, and memorable is “Part of Your World.” The rest you will need to find out when you attend a performance.
Michael Berl, founding director of the Beit Hillel Theater Workshop, now in its 37th season, offers these observations:
“The Little Mermaid presented us with new and complex challenges in order to maintain the aura of fantasy within the confines of a small stage. Dena Davies, our costume designer, designed costumes that are fun, colorful, and true to the story. Dooby Harvey, our set designer, along with Noi Ben Ami and Stav Slutsky, used new elements to create sea effects. Reuven Laytush, our technical director, designed several lighting effects just for this production. We mixed both painted scenery, high resolution photography, and Power Point to create a unique look on stage and a sense of ‘Under the Sea’.”
The Beit Hillel Theater Workshop merges both experienced actors and novices, Israelis and Anglo Saxons, university students, and older adults in a community theater experience that is educational, professional, and fulfilling. It is a place for initiating friendships, for interaction with people of varied backgrounds, and for developing theater skills.
The cast members are a mix of established veterans and many new actors. Among them are seasoned performers Shani Wahrman, Bryan Friedland, Atara Mayer, Leora Rosh Gadol, Helene Weintraub, and newcomers, Nitzan Ben Ari, Scott Anastasia, Matan Rubin, Arella Mayer and Lulu Dubin.
“There is a social interactive melding aspect at play as well,” says Berl. “Corona has derailed social gatherings, and places for young adults to meet and enjoy each other’s company. The Beit Hillel Theater Workshop has always been a great source for bonding, now more than ever. These young adults have a love of the theater experience and a passion to perform. And so they came with their masks, and were totally focused on the subject matter. They knew full well that their investment of talent, time, and effort could be halted at any time or even be for naught. Finally, it is about to happen beginning November 29.
The support staff includes: Michael Berl, producer/director; Gabriella Mischel, assistant director; Shelly Binman, music director; Mai Dror, assistant to the music director; Ashira Allon, choreographer; Dooby Harvey, set designer; Noi Ben Ari and Stav Slutsky, assistants to the set designer; Leora Roshgadol, stage manager; and Reuven Laytush, technical director.
The Beit Hillel Theater Workshop has produced Fiddler on the Roof (3x), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat (3x), The Phantom of the Opera, Guys and Dolls (2x), Les Misérables (3x), A Tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Pippin, Biloxi Blues, Lend Me a Tenor, The Diary of Anne Frank, Ish Chassid Haya, Annie (2x), The Wall, Chorus Line, Oliver! (2x), Beauty and the Beast (2x), West Side Story (2x), Blood Brothers (2x), My Fair Lady (2x), Aida (2x), Hello Dolly!, The Sound of Music, and Cinderella.
Performance dates: November 29-December 7, nine performances.
All entry is by three vaccination Green Card with bar code, and requires masks. Reserved online seating www.eventer.co.il/user/littlemermaid. Tel: (055) 977-8086, (055) 984- 6381.