West End debut for new David Mamet drama

By Jennifer Lipman, April 1, 2011

The award winning American Jewish writer David Mamet is to première his latest play in the West End this autumn.

Set in a prison, The Anarchist tells the story of a female activist's fight with a prison governor to have her life sentence reduced.


On this day: Stephen Sondheim is born

By Jennifer Lipman, March 22, 2011

Name a popular or successful musical that appeared on Broadway or in the West End in the last 50 years, and there’s a high chance it will be one written by Stephen Sondheim.

Born in New York City, he had a troubled upbringing but at the age of nine fell in love with the theatre after seeing a production of Oscar Hammerstein II’s Very Warm for May.


London date for Rosenthal's Barmitzvah Boy play

By Jennifer Lipman, February 18, 2011

Jack Rosenthal’s play about making the Barmitzvah Boy musical, Smash! is to be shown on a London stage for the first time.

The Bafta-award winning playwright, who died of cancer in 2004, wrote the comedy Smash! after struggling to turn his hit television drama into a musical.

The tale of a Jewish boy’s apprehension about the ceremony made it to the stage in 1978, two years after it appeared on the BBC.


Glee star Idina Menzel to play wedding singer

By Jennifer Lipman, December 1, 2010

Jewish Broadway favourite Idina Menzel is to star as a Barmitzvah singer in a new television series.

The actress, recently on screen as Rachel Berry’s estranged mother in Glee, is to start filming the as-yet untitled series next year, for it to air in autumn.

Ms Menzel will play a single mother and the show will look at her relationship with her daughter as well as her professional life as a waitress and part-time wedding singer.


Lloyd Dorfman's £10 million theatre donation

By Jennifer Lipman, October 28, 2010

A Jewish businessman has announced a £10 million donation to the National Theatre.

The gift, from Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman, will go towards the theatre’s Future redevelopment fund.

Mr Dorfman, 57, has been involved in the National Theatre, on London’s South Bank, for several years and is a member of its board.

The Cottesloe Theatre will be renamed the Dorfman Theatre to mark the donation.


Fiddler on the Roof writer dies

By Jennifer Lipman, October 27, 2010

The writer behind the stage and screen versions of the musical Fiddler on the Roof has died at the age of 98.

Playwright Joseph Stein, who won a prestigious Tony award in 1965 for the Broadway hit, had been suffering from prostate cancer. He died in New York.

Born to Polish immigrants to New York, he worked with Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, and wrote for both radio and television.


Why this Jewish dancer turned down Billy Elliott

By Jessica Elgot, October 14, 2010

For a young ballet dancer, the part of Billy Elliott might seem like a dream role. But for 16-year-old Mexican dancer Esteban Hernandez, Broadway fame came second to serious training with the Royal Ballet.

"When I got the role on Broadway, I was still very young, I was 14," he said. "Those years are the formative ones for a ballet dancer. It's so important to have good training.


On this day: Harold Pinter wins a Nobel Prize

By Jennifer Lipman, October 13, 2010

The Nobel Prize committee praised him as a writer “who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms.”

Born in 1930 in Hackney, Harold Pinter attended Hackney Downs school and then pursued a career on stage, screen and as a writer. He became known for plays including The Birthday Party and The Caretaker, as well as The Homecoming, for which he won a Tony award.


I helped Miller piece together his Jewish play

September 28, 2010

Arthur Miller was well into his seventies when he decided to write a play that focused on antisemitism. It turned out to be the first work that sprung from the core of his Jewishness. True, his canon already included Incident at Vichy, a sideways look at European antisemitism. There was also his only novel, Focus. Published after the war, the book dealt with the American brand of Jew-hatred. But it was not until the 1990s, with a play that was first called The Man in Black, then Gellburg and finally Broken Glass that Miller confronted the subject head on.


On this day: George Gershwin is born

By Jennifer Lipman, September 26, 2010

The composer made just five dollars from his first song but later became an American musical legend.

Turned down for a job by Irving Berlin when he was 20, George Gershwin was told: “You’re meant for big things.” The prophecy came true.

The son of immigrants from Russia, Jacob Gershowitz left school at 15 and began writing popular tunes for Broadway musicals, concert hall shows and operas. In 1927 Fred Astaire took to the stage in Funny Face, a musical Gershwin wrote in collaboration with his elder brother Ira. It was one of several successes they had together.