This past Thursday night, the cult hit, “Little Shop of Horrors” opened in Jerusalem. The show’s anthem, sung by a gorgeous and spooky talking plant designed by Director Eli Kaplan-Wildmann and Rachel Jacobson, and brought to life by Antoine Collins, warns, “They may offer you fortune and fame, love and money and instant acclaim, but whatever they offer you, don’t feed the plants.”
Performed to a largely Anglo audience, it feels a bit like preaching to the choir; as any prospective Oleh knows all too well, fortune and fame, and instant acclaim, are not promised in the Promised Land. (Gazing out at the audience, I stifled an additional chuckle during the show’s second number, “Downtown,” when the immensely talented trio of Elinor Kaufman, Shlomit Kovalski and Netanya Mischel preached, “Alarm goes off at seven and you start uptown/you put in your eight hours for the powers that have always been.” When those eight hours end, I start my “second shift,” and I know I am not alone among my Oleh peers!)
Listening to “Don’t Feed the Plants,” from behind the scenes on opening night, sung by a cast comprised largely of Olim, I took its words not as a warning but as a reminder of the values and motivations that brought us all here. In fact, the theater community in Jerusalem reminds me of those values and motivations every single day.
English-language theater in Jerusalem serves a variety of roles: a creative outlet for theater enthusiasts; an entry point for prospective performers and artists looking to explore the field and gain experience; a platform to expose veteran and immigrant Israelis to contemporary and classic works, and, most importantly, a connection point for building community.
The five productions I have been fortunate to be involved with over the last three years have brought together a variety of talented, dedicated performers and creative staff, including recent arrivals; veteran Olim; temporary residents; veteran Israelis and children of Olim (whose frequent inability to catch double entendres or cultural references in English scripts have provided no end of amusement and more than a few red-faces, during script readings!).
This current production is no exception, as the LSOH team includes a cast member on a diplomatic posting; a recently-released soldier; a number of new Olim and several Israel-born students and rising stars. Unlike other recent shows, LSOH has a smaller cast on stage (nine actors) but requires an enormous amount of cooperation behind the scenes to master the four stunning puppets that bring “Audrey II,” the infamous human-eating plant, to life each evening.
The funny, macabre story is dazzling and magical, and this production contains several surprises for the audience, particularly for those in the special interactive seating section. But most exciting is to see the energy and enthusiasm of the cast and creative team, which is what truly makes the show a joy to behold.
“Hold your hat and hang onto your soul,” as we sweep you into the world of “Suddenly Seymor,” the experimental botanist, eating Jerusalem this Hanukah.
Little Shop of Horrors, a joint production of Starcatcher and JEST, is playing at the Nurit Katzir Theater Center, Yitshak Elhanan 9, at 20:00 on November 28 and 30, December 5 and 7, and at 17:00 on December 5. For tickets, call 02-6420908 or email email@example.com.