Pros: Dazzling songs, cleanly staged in a beautifully compact venue.
Cons: Couldn’t they have made it longer?!
The title of this show might sound provocative or even cynical to some; however a greater truth was never spoken in the performing arts. You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Don’t Have Any Jews is an irresistible romp through the cream of Broadway shows, tracing their history from the 1930s to the present day. A screen plays short biographical films, whilst a talented company of eighteen performers interpret some of the greatest show tunes ever written.
We begin with George and Ira Gershwin and stunning versions of ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘Summertime’. Richard Rodgers’ collaborations with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein are rightly featured as Babes in Arms and Oklahoma take a bow. The incomparable Irving Berlin gets the next shout with There’s No Business Like Show Business. As we move into the 1950s, excerpts from Guys and Dolls and My Fair Lady lead into a cracking version of ‘Big Spender’ and ‘A House is Not a Home’, from the strangely forgotten Burt Bacharach musical Promises Promises. The work of John Kander and Fred Ebb also gets an airing with songs from Cabaret and Chicago.
Having reached the 1980s, I was surprised by the number of modern musicals with the same cultural origins; Les Miserables, Fame, Rent and Hairspray all had input from Jewish composers. There were however some notable omissions; for example no Jerry Herman, author of Hello Dolly and Mame; similarly nothing from Westside Story, created by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim; although the latter was featured in selections from Gypsy and Company. Of course it’s an impossible task with such a vast repertoire to choose from, but it just makes me wish the show was longer. With such an excellent company it’s difficult to single out individuals, but special mention must go to Sophie Evans who sang beautifully on ‘Over The Rainbow’ and Sophie Marks who totally nailed ‘I Dreamed A Dream’.
However you view this show, it is to all intents and purposes a juke box musical; but this particular revue is a cut above shows of the same type routinely cobbled together. Instead of an under nourished plot we have a strong narrative telling the true story of immigrants striving for acceptance and a better life. It’s a vibrant history lesson, full of the drive, ambition and pure unadulterated talent that helped create a new genre. Musicals aren’t to everyone’s taste; they might come across as corny and sentimental, but one can’t help but admire songs that are brilliantly constructed with a lasting quality.
Directors: Daniel Donskoy and Michael Stern
Musical Director: Inga Davis-Rutter
Choreographer: Chris Whittaker
Producer: Collaborative Artists Ltd
Booking Until: 5 September 2015
Box Office: 0844 264 2140
Booking Link: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/theatre/you-wont-succeed-on-broadway-if-you-dont-have-any-jews/