If there is one thing that cannot be denied, it is the contribution made by writers, directors, producers, and artists of Jewish heritage to the entertainment industry and this is celebrated in fine style with the current production at Upstairs at the Gatehouse – “The Jewish Legends”
Over the course of two fast moving hours, four wonderful performers (Joanna Lee, Molly Marie Walsh, Martin Neely and Martin Milnes) take the audience on a magical musical tour of Jewish performers from the early 20th Century through to the current day. With sections devoted to a particular artist, the cast don’t just sing their way through the performance but provide witty and informative background information on some of the true greats – Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, Groucho Marx, Fanny Brice, Zero Mostel, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Burt Bacharach.
Writer Chris Burgess should be congratulated for the background stories which were fascinating and very surprising – not only did I not know Groucho Marx was Jewish, but I always thought the Marx Brothers were just a group of performers not actually siblings – and were interspersed with some memorable quotes from the artists themselves that had the audience rocking with laughter. There was a lovely tale about the start of Bette Midler’s career that was inspiring, moving and hilarious. I’m not going to give anything away here but all I will say is it did come as a bit of a shock to know that such things went on in such places. However, even with all the stories, quotes and humorous asides, it was the music that was the real attraction with literally something for everyone. There were show tunes (Don’t Rain On My Parade, Comedy Tonight, To Life), easy listening (Anyone Who had a Heart, Do you Know The Way to San Jose?) emotional killers (Mammy, My Yiddishe Mama, He’s My Man) and wonderful comic songs (I Don’t Want to Get Thin, Hello I Must Be Going) and the cast whether as solos, duets or combo delivered them all superbly ably assisted by Musical Director Lee Freeman and his band.
The great thing about a show like “The Jewish Legends” is that it is so easy to see that the cast are really enjoying themselves. When not singing, they sat to the side you could feel the waves of support coming from them to whoever was performing at that time. The performers were absolutely brilliant and Its really difficult to pick out a particular highlight in this well-crafted production but Joanna Lee’s emotional rendition of ‘My Yiddishe Mama’ had more than one audience member surreptitiously reaching for a hanky to wipe away a tear and yes one of them was me.
At the end of this wonderful show, the applause was sustained and genuine from an appreciative audience that had toe-tapped and head-bobbed throughout (often lip synching the words along with the performers) and from where I was sat it was brilliant to see such positive reactions to everything that they had been seeing and hearing. The cast joked that “The Jewish Legends” wasn’t able to cover everyone, then reeled off a list of names of other Jewish entertainers that left me really hoping for once that there was going to be a “The Jewish Legends 2 – the Sequel” in the offing very soon.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Jewish Legends
Written by Chris Burgess
Directed by Stewart Nicholls
Musically Directed by Lee Freeman
Written by Chris Burgess
Musical Arrangements by Andy Collyer
Produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment
3rd to 15th March 2015
Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Tuesdays – Saturdays 7.30pm
Matinees: Sunday 8th at 4pm & 7pm, Saturday 14th at 3pm & Sunday 15th at 4pm
After a sell-out run of The Jewish Legacy celebrating the Jewish contribution to musical theatre, Aria Entertainment returns with a new production; The Jewish Legends.
A celebration of some of the greatest Jewish performers in entertainment history!
This show uniquely explores a century of song, dance and comedy with a nod to some legendary performers such as Barbra Streisand, Al Jolson, Bette Midler, Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, Zero Mostel and Groucho Marx. Song writers include Burt Bacharach, Carole King, and Leonard Cohen. Their songs, their lives, their stories.
Featuring a cast of four fantastic singers; Steve Serlin (selected performances), Martin Milnes (selected performances), Martin Neely, Joanna Lee, Molly Marie Walsh and a live band
Tuesdays & Wednesdays – £14/£12 concessions
Thursdays, Fridays & Matinees – £16/£14 concessions
Saturday nights – £18/£16 concessions
TicketsIcon BOX OFFICE: 020 8340 3488
Running Time: Approx. 2 hours 5 minutes, including one interval of 15 minutes
Monday 9th March 2015