First it was a play, then a film and now Calendar Girls has been made into a musical – already nominated for several Olivier Awards – with book and lyrics by Tim Firth, who wrote the play and co-wrote the film script (with Juliette Towhidi), and music by Gary Barlow.
The Girls tells the true story of members of a Yorkshire branch of the Women’s Institute who had the idea of posing for a nude calendar to raise money for Leukaemia Research, when the husband of one of the girls became ill and died from the disease.
As all the girls of the title are nominated jointly for an Olivier Award, Judi Herman spoke to Debbie Chazen, who has the distinction of being the only Jewish ‘girl’, as well as the only one who appeared in the original stage play.
Photo by Matt Crockett, Dewynters
The Girls runs until Saturday 15 July. 7.30pm (Tue-Sat), 2.30pm (Thu & Sat, plus Tue from 25 Apr). £29.50-£69.50. Phoenix Theatre, WC2H 0JP. 0844 871 7627. www.phoenixtheatrelondon.co.uk
It’s Dora Reisser’s ability to reinvent herself – from child refugee to prima ballerina, actor, screen star and fashion designer – and in such nail-biting circumstances, that makes her memoir, Dora’s Story, so gripping. Judi Herman visited Reisser at her remarkable London home (it used to be a railway station) to hear more of the stories behind her book, which begins with the little-known history of how Bulgaria’s Jews survived the Holocaust; and about her life in the UK and Israel, including an eye-opening account of how she started her Reisser fashion house – just one of the many new stories Reisser has that could fill a sequel.
There was a terrific compilation movie that took the title of much-loved song That’s Entertainment (written by Jewish duo Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz for the MGM film The Band Wagon) to celebrate the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio’s prodigious output; celebrating songs by Jewish composers and lyricists written for films produced by a studio founded and run by the eponymous Jewish entertainment moguls. Producer Katy Lipson proves her love and knowledge of “the magic of the musical” by touring her show The MGM Story this February. So in a way That’s Jewish Entertainment is a given, but there’s still so much to discover and enjoy as four talented performers and a four-strong band give their all to entertaining Yiddish style and tracing the trajectory of Jewish entertainment from shtetl to showbiz.
Following a visit to Auschwitz in 2012, Sira Soetendorp felt a deep need to preserve the memory of all the lost family members. The Dutch artist used carved outlines drawn in oil paint to fashion portraits based on family photographs, which make up her exhibition Vanished Families. Here she discusses the exhibit with JR’s Arts Editor Judi Herman, plus you will hear Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, Sira’s husband and Emeritus Rabbi of the Hague, who is an award-winning human rights advocate.
Vanished Families runs until Monday 27 February at Etz Chayim Gallery, Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue, HA6 3AA. 019 2382 2592. Viewing by appointment: email@example.com. www.npls.org.uk/etzchayim.htm
Janet Haig is one of the ceramicists whose pieces (pictured above), as well as a film showing how she works, are featured in Shaping Ceramics at the Jewish Museum London. The exhibition explores the work of pioneering ceramicists, tracing their influence on subsequent generations of ceramic artists whose Jewish heritage has shaped their work. Polish-born artist Haig joins JR’s arts editor Judi Herman here for a very personal tour of the exhibition, discussing the experiences that have moulded her work: from the hardships of the war years in a Siberian prison camp with her mother, to her formative childhood in Australia (where she studied painting) after they discovered that their closest family had perished in the Holocaust, to her arrival in the UK in 1962 and work teaching in a boys’ school.
Haig reveals that her first inspiration might go back as far as those harsh days in Siberia: “My mother was able to take one object with her [to Siberia] and she suddenly saw this little pot (I still have it in my possession), which she grabbed hold of because, as I was a baby, she thought it would be useful to warm things up. It’s enamel, blue on the outside, white on the inside and maybe that has had some kind of inspiration on my pots.”
Shaping Ceramics: From Lucie Rie to Edmund de Waal runs until Sunday 26 February, at Jewish Museum, NW1 7NB. 020 7284 7384. www.jewishmuseum.org.uk
Watch ceramic artist Janet Haig demonstrate the ancient pottery-making technique of hand building on Monday 23 January, 11.30am-12.30pm, £7.50, £6.50 concs, at Jewish Museum, NW1 7NB. 020 7284 7384. www.jewishmuseum.org.uk
Continue reading to see images of work featured in the exhibition, as mentioned in the interview; and find out more about key artists in the exhibition in the January 2017 issue of Jewish Renaissance.
When Harry is talked down from throwing himself off a Bridge by old school friend Milt, who luckily happens to be passing, his life takes a different direction as he finds love in this 1963 comedy from Murray Schisgal. He’s the prominent New York Jewish writer responsible for Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing film comedy hit. Here Charles Dorfman talks to Judi Herman about finding LUV and playing Harry; his co-stars Nick Barber and Elsie Bennett; his collaboration with director Gary Condes; and Dorfman’s Buckland Theatre Company, resident company at Park Theatre’s studio space, Park 90.
LUV runs until Saturday 7 January. 7.45pm (Tue-Sat), 7pm (13 Dec only), 3.15pm (Thu & Sat). £14.50-£18. Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, N4 3JP. 020 7870 6876. www.parktheatre.co.uk
Imam Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers and Reverend Steven Young tell Judi Herman about their hopes and fears for their very first comedy gig. An Imam, a Rabbi and a Priest Walk into a Comedy Club is taking place as part of JW3’s third annual UK Jewish Comedy Festival. And for an extra treat, hear Imam Muhammad demonstrate his prize-winning singing in Gaelic at the end of his chat with Judi!
An Imam, a Rabbi and a Priest Walk into a Comedy Club (with Q&A) is on Sunday 4 December, 5.30-6.30pm, £12, at JW3, London NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8988. www.jw3.org.uk/comedy
Australian-Israeli comedian, actor and human rights lawyer Jeremie Bracka will be making his London debut on night one of JW3’s UK Jewish Comedy Festival (1-4 Dec). Here he talks to Judi Herman, JR’s arts editor, about life in the Middle East and Down Under, as well as his latest one-man show, Thank you for Flying Hell-Al, in which he uses storytelling, stand-up, character comedy and mockumentary to explore life in Israel and the experience of making Aliyah.
Thank you for Flying Hell-Al is on Thursday 1 December, 8.30pm, £15, at JW3, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8989. www.jw3.org.uk
On Monday 7 November, one of music’s most eloquent and able songwriters passed away. Leonard Cohen was 82 when he died peacefully at his home in southern California earlier this week. His son Adam said touchingly in an interview with Rolling Stone, “My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour.”
As the 20th UK International Jewish Film Festival gets underway (5-20 November), we take our first look at the selection of films on offer. Roee Florentin’s Mr Predictable will have you cheering as its eponymous hero finally refuses to sit up and beg…