Big voices fill little black dresses

For tourists or English speaking residents of Israel, attending Hebrew language performances might prove to be frustrating or intimidating.

English on Stage, a traveling company is celebrating its tenth year putting on productions in Israel in English, and serves some the aesthetic needs of Anglophiles in Israel and even attracts native Israelis who are curious or craving entertainment that’s less parochial than some local fare.

Their newest production is Little Black Dress, a fashion inspired parade of songs and comedic interludes that celebrates “the versatility of women” and one of their most reliable and endearing yet elegant wardrobe staples.

Delivering a playlist that spans decades, the five performers each don their own tailored “LBD” crafted by Israeli designer Efrat Besandilov.

Four vocalists each took center stage at one time or another and intentionally or not put forth a personality in their performances whether as a soloist or in a duet or part of the several ensembles pieces.

(from left to right) Tami Machni, Noeat Kedem, Tamar Bettelheim and Shir Zelinger harmonizing in style in their Little Black Dresses
(from left to right) Tami Machni, Noeat Kedem, Tamar Bettelheim and Shir Zelinger harmonizing in style in their Little Black Dresses (all photos by Herschel Gutman)

Shir Zelinger, who is the production’s musical director, injected more of a cabaret twist into her time on stage and her experience in past musicals helped her project her confidence and charm throughout the 70 minutes of upbeat melodies.

Tami Machnai, who played piano throughout the night, is a well heeled internationally trained singer songwriter who seemed a natural to be channelling the likes of Carole King

Tamar Bettelheim came across as the most “sassy” of the sisters of the Little Black Dresses which was underscored by her lead in Cyndi Lauper’s “Girl’s Just Want to Have Fun,”

That leaves last but not least Noeat Kedem, who seemed to have the role of an ingenue evolving onstage into a diva.who seemed to be reaching and hitting the highest notes in her solos.

Noeat Kedem (left) and Shir (right) share center stage at the Habima National Theater in Tel Aviv
Noeat Kedem (left) and Shir Zelinger (right) share center stage at the Habima National Theater in Tel Aviv

Meirav Zur, the director and co-creator of Little Black Dress with Wendy Lehmann, and manager of English on Stage, performed a few original one woman comedy “transitions.” Her whimsical rap, on what the contents of her handbag, was at any one time was her contribution to the musical motif of the evening but all of her well received skits contributed to the sense that Little Black Dress is about having a fun night out.

Meirav Zur provides the laughs that weaves together the songs of English on Stage's Little Black Dress
Meirav Zur provides the laughs that weaves together the songs of English on Stage’s Little Black Dress

Accompanying the vocalists and piano were Yaniv Azikri on bass guitar and Shahar Ratzenberg on drums. Although each vocalist had their moment to shine in their solos the show seemed strongest when all four were on stage harmonizing with the others.

The audience seemed to be predominately women but I would encourage men to attend a future performance. The songs are mostly ones you will recognize and even though you might not see this as a show for a guys night out, it’s a good date night out or a treat for a dad to take his daughter, or a son to take his mom.

The playlist includes “Rumor Has It”, “Natural Woman”, “Diamonds Are Girl’s Best Friend”, “If I Were a Boy”, “It’s A New Dawn , It’s A New Day” and several other songs: some sweet, some soulful, some sultry, some sassy yet all speaking to women getting the most of an evening out in their Little Black Dresses.

For future performance times and locations check out englishonstage.co.il

David Rhodes an be reached at israeliwineguy@gmail.com

About the Author
David Rhodes is a New England native who spent 16 years in California before moving to Israel in 2008; David is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner since 1992, has worked as a cook in several kitchens and has served as an adviser for San Diego State University's Business of Wine program, from which he graduated. David has worked as a consulting sommelier at wineries and restaurants in California and in Israel. David has written hundreds of articles about Israeli food, wine, beer and spirits as well as interviewed Ambassadors to Israel from China, the Netherlands, South Korea and Cyprus.
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