Dramatic entrance to a new stage of life

Coby Brown's barmitzvah was extra special, twinning with a boy from one of Emunah's residential homes in Afula at the kotel in Jerusalem. As well as a theatre themed barmitzvah back in London


Theatreland is Coby Brown’s scene — his sights are set on “acting, writing, composing, directing — anything other than selling the ice creams”. So there was only one choice of theme for his barmitzvah. The invitation set the stage for a musical-theatre celebration. It contained a personalised theatre ticket with tear-off reply card for each guest. But Act One took place far from London’s West End, at the Kotel. “To see your son stand in such a special place and become a man is really something that cannot be parallelled,” says Coby’s mother, Emma, an accountant from north west London. Jamie, the barmitzvah’s father, agrees: “Standing next to Coby at The Kotel, my first time there, as he recited his barmitzvah, was a money-can’t-buy experience that made me the proudest father on the planet.”

Coby twinned his barmitzvah with a boy from one of Emunah’s residential homes in Afula and undertook a 13km walk with his father around Theatreland, taking in 35 theatres and raising more than £2,000.

“It was important for him to recognise that there are kids less fortunate, who do not get to experience the opportunities that he has,” says Jamie.

“I loved twinning with the boy from Emunah,” says Coby. “He is really funny and caring, and great to be around. It definitely made my barmitzvah more special.”

The second barmitzvah ceremony took place at Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue, which was founded by Emma’s great grandfather, Hyman Woolf.

A spy film provided inspiration for Coby’s outfit: “I knew exactly what I wanted to wear. I had a three-piece tweed suit for shul, in the style of the Kingsman; mum and dad bought me a great umbrella to finish off the outfit.”

Jamie’s attire was more low-key — a navy suit, accessorised with pink tie and socks to match Emma’s dress.

The venue was the May Fair Hotel in central London. Prior to the big day, the team from The Events Factory had managed to set up a photo shoot at the Criterion Theatre and this was used to create the themed décor for the hotel. Photographer Blake Ezra took some pictures of Coby in the theatre and by a stage door behind Shaftesbury Avenue.

Jamie, a graphic designer, used these images to produce a “theatre programme” which contained the menu, biographies of the children making speeches and an interview with Coby’s younger brother Marley about the barmitzvah boy. The cover of the programme was then personalised and acted as the place-card for each guest.

Each table was named after a show and all the decorations were in a theatrical colour scheme of gold, black and red.

“One of my personal favourite moments of the night was Coby’s entrance into the room,” says Jamie. “It was the first time he had seen the room, which in itself was huge surprise but walking in to the Jersey Guys [tribute act] singing Walk Like a Man and getting Coby to join them on stage doing what he loves most (singing and dancing, especially to Jersey Boys) was a priceless moment.

“Our friends and family thought he must have rehearsed this entrance for weeks as he looked so at home on stage but he had no idea it was even happening.”

“I felt really excited when we first got to the see the room all set up but was totally surprised when I had my big entrance and the Jersey Guys were there,” says Coby.

Appropriately, his costume for the party was “a dark red velvet jacket — Jersey Boys all the way”. Emma wore a dinner suit: “I’m not one for evening dresses.”

“I do usually like to stand out from the crowd,” says Jamie, “but on this occasion I opted for a classic, single-button black tuxedo with velvet lapels and a matching velvet bow-tie.

“We had a merchandise stand, which I think was my favourite part of the theming in the room,” says Emma. This held branded t-shirts, glittery hats (red, gold and black), sunglasses, glow sticks and inflatable microphones.

“As a family we love sushi and Japanese cuisine, so that’s what we went for as the menu,” says Emma. “Miso lamb or black cod, with lots of sharing dishes. We had a selection of desserts that were served on usherette trays on the dance floor. The food was amazing and [kosher caterer] Jason Millan dealt amazingly with all my allergies so that I could eat everything.”

“The entertainment was amazing, I know how lucky I am and the whole thing felt like an out-of-body experience,” says Coby.

“Walking in to the Jersey Guys and having Mum and Dad shove me on stage with them was fab but the best surprise were the messages that Mum and Dad had arranged from tons of West End performers, especially the cast of Jersey Boys.

Coby’s brother, Marley, sang his speech to Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.

“My best friends made amazing speeches which I will never forget and my brother’s performance was beyond amazing,” says Coby. “The experience was Olivier Award-winning from start to finish.”


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive