Life & Culture

Michaela Stern, the Redbridge-born actress and producer, determined to boost the Jewish presence in West End theatre

The actress and producer has been celebrating dual success with Soho Cinders - an update on the Cinderella story


A Redbridge-born actress and theatre producer has embarked on one of the biggest learning curves of her career after securing a dual role in one of the most successful West End shows of the winter season.

Michaela Stern has won praise from critics for her part in Soho Cinders – a musical update of the Cinderella story, now in its third month at London's Charing Cross Theatre.

The former King Solomon High School girl also co-produces the play, in which she stars as step-sister Clodagh.

"I won't be doing it again," laughs the 27-year-old, who says that tackling both jobs has been "a challenge, a learning curve, and an experience".

"The two roles, even though I love both, don't actually balance each other out. They don't work in harmony."

Stern has also been ambitious ever since she fell in love with the theatre world, after her grandmother took her to see Oliver! at the London Palladium as a child.

Leaving school, she continued her passion for acting at the ArtsED performing arts school in Chiswick, before joining the London School of Musical Theatre and then turning professional.

She went on to produce the fantastically titled You Won't Succeed on Broadway If You Don't Have Any Jews – a musical that celebrated the phenomenal impact the community has had on New York theatre.

Celebrating names such as George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Coleman, Schwartz and Menken, it ran at the Garrick and St James Theatres, before moving to Tel Aviv's Museum of Arts.

"We started the show at a time, like now, when there was a lot of negativity about Judaism and particularly Israel.

"You Won't Succeed was literally about how Jews shaped Broadway theatre," she says.

"Broadway still has a thriving Jewish community, whereas in this country a lot of Jews have stepped away from the arts.

"I think in London we now actually lack many Jewish theatre makers."

She admits the last few months have presented a further a challenge to her, with discussion ahead of the General Election among friends in the theatre world often moving onto the Labour Party.

"People were being publicly open about voting Labour and not really asking many questions," she says.

"A lot of the industry go up in arms when it comes to mentioning Israel."

But Ms Stern, who is a member of Cranbrook United Synagogue in Ilford, is more comfortable discussing why Soho Cinders has proved to be such a success since it opened in October.

"While it centres around the story a gay man, one of the reasons I wanted to do the show was that it features such strong women," she says.

"It's a little bit cheeky and the ugly sisters are these sex hungry women who slag off men, and we swear on a few occasions, maybe three times.

"There's a political element, with one of the characters being involved in the London mayoral contest and there's a 15 minutes of fame section where we discuss celebrity culture in a relevant way."

 Stern says she has a couple of new projects "in the pipeline" after Soho Cinders completes it run .

But she adds: "This industry, you have got to be tough. You can finish a show on top of your game at the end of a run on a Saturday night.

"Then by Monday you are back serving beers behind a bar. 

"You have got to be tough – and really ambitious."

Soho Cinders runs until January 11 at the Charing Cross Theatre.

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