I attended Jewish Legends on the 9th September at Upstairs at the Gatehouse. It appears that review shows featuring Jewish artists are all the rage at the moment as I only attended ‘You Won’t Succeed On Broadway If you Don’t Have Any Jews,’ less than 2 weeks ago.
The premise of the show is very simple – it look sat the works of 8 Jewish stars or legends. The Jewish legends featured spanned the decades and were Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, Groucho Marx, Fanny Brice, Zero Mostel, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Burt Bacharach. Their work is covered by just 4 performers. The performers are Joanna Lee, Kimberly Moses (only appearing on the 9th/10th September), Martin Neely and Martin Milnes.
The songs of the stars are interspersed with some interesting facts about the legend of choice, although sometimes the delivery did come across as overly ‘staged’ at times and there was maybe one or two gags too many. Nonetheless the information was informative and often surprising.
There was a wide range in song choice, although what else would you expect from this varied choice of artists. We were treated to a section of musical theatre songs such as ‘Tradition,’ ‘Comedy Tonight,’ ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade,’ and ‘Where is it Written,’ however most of the song choices came from the charts. My favourite song of the evening was ‘The Rose.’ The story behind it was emotional and the casts voices blended perfectly on the harmonies. There were backed by a solid 3 piece band lead by Freddie Taper which was nicely balanced.
The cast were all generally strong however I thought Kimberly Moses’ voice was stunning and her delivery of the aforementioned ‘Where is It Written,’ was powerful. I was also very impressed with Martin Neely, he had a strong stage presence and a voice to match.
Some of the choreography and staging was a bit too simplistic and cheesy and the cast were at their best when they were simply standing to deliver a powerful number. The audience around me seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves and after one or too numbers I heard the odd ‘wow.’ There was many older generation Jews in the audience nodding with agreement to some of the comments about Jewish heritage. This is a show for anyone wanting to reminiscence over some of the greats, just don’t expect anything new or fresh.
Jewish Legends in on until Saturday the 12th September. Tickets can be purchased here.