You don’t have to be Jewish to write a musical hit – but it helps!
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Thursday 18th October 2018

Question: How do you follow a roast chicken dinner in a crowded succah and an exhilarating Simchas Torah in Luton Synagogue?

Answer: A most entertaining talk by Brian Nathan.

Brian started by asking us a question:: What is the difference between a musical and an opera? His answer was about £100 per ticket!

Brian went on to describe some of the other differences between musicals and operas. Operas have big orchestras and limited performances compared to musicals which can run for years. And musicals often include dance which, if present at all in opera, is usually limited to ballet. The ticket price difference is now less than it used to be as musicals have become more lavish and ticket prices has risen.

Describing a number of musicals by Jewish composers and librettists, he identified the social and moral content of many. So Al Dubin, Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren’s 42nd Street, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Fiddler on the Roof, Alan J Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady and Lional Bart’s Oliver all identified the extreme differences between wealth and poverty.

Racial differences are illustrated in Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim’s West Side Story, George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s Porgy and Bess and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Showboat.

Political and cultural differences are identified in Frank Lessers Guys and Dolls and Claude-Michel Schonberg, Claude Boubil and Herbert Kretzmer’s Les Miserables.

Of course, the prime objective of musicals ( apart from the need to generate a profit) is to entertain. So Steven Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum introduced itself with ‘A Comedy Tonight’, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern’s Showboat, and Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun (which has There’s no Business Like Show Business) all set out to entertain.

Illustrating many of these musicals with recordings ensured an entertaining afternoon which finished in time for us to enjoy tea and cake!