Since Shiri Maimon emerged on the Israeli music scene as the runner-up in Season 1 of “Kochav Nolad” (A Star Is Born, Israel’s answer to “American Idol”), I’ve made no secret of my admiration for her.
OK, so she’s gorgeous. Even my wife knows I’ve had a major crush on her for years. But looking beyond that…man, can that girl sing! From her powerful rendition of “Don Quixote” in the “Kochav Nolad” finale, to her 2005 4th place finish in the Eurovision Song Contest, to her powerful 2008 MTV-award winning “Now That You’re Gone”, I’ve long appreciated Shiri’s vocal style and abilities.
So I think it’s safe to say I was pretty excited to learn of her upcoming stint on the Broadway stage.
I was even more excited to receive an invitation to the official press conference, in which Shiri Maimon was introduced to the media as the new star of “Chicago” on Broadway, playing the role of “Roxy Hart” effective September 21.
So last Friday (9/7), my (equally gorgeous) wife Mairov and I took the bus from Central New Jersey into New York City. From our final destination at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, it was just a few blocks to the famed Sardi’s restaurant, “the toast of Broadway”. With caricatures of famous Broadway stars adorning virtually every inch of real estate on the walls, it was an ideal venue to introduce the next big Broadway star, “fresh off the boat” from Israel.
As we arrived, we spent a few minutes mingling with reporters from The Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, I24 News and Broadway.com, all of whom were pleased to learn of the existence of our long running radio program and podcast. Suddenly, the elevator doors opened and an entourage entered the room. It was the consul-general of Israel in New York, Dani Dayan. We spent a few moments chatting with Dani and his staff, and we hope to begin working closely together to help promote Israeli culture in the New York City area.
Finally the big moment arrived. Following a few introductory remarks by Mr. Dayan (“I’ve gotten to know Shiri personally, and I discovered that she’s not only an amazing singer, a wonderful performer, but a lovely human being also. She’s also an incredible ambassador of the State of Israel”, he said), we were introduced to Barry Weissler, the producer of “Chicago”.
Shiri Meets the Press
Mr. Weissler wasted no time in presenting the guest of honor. “Please let me introduce you to the most beautiful, multi-talented – Shiri Maimon.”
Shiri emerged from behind a divider, looking glamorous in a low-cut red dress that exposed her shoulders. She greeted Mr. Weissler and the two of them posed for photos from the press. After more solo photos of Shiri (who clearly knows how to work a photo shoot), she then took a seat as reporters lined up for one-on-one interviews.
About ten minutes later, Mairov and I took our turn. We asked another reporter if he would mind filming the interview for us from my phone, so that we could post the video online. He graciously agreed…but somehow, when I got my phone back, there was no video, and sadly, no recorded interview. When I reached out to her management to ask about the possibility of a second chance, I was met with an apologetic “no”. Oh well. You’ll just have to read all about it here.
It’s Israel Hour Radio with Mairov, Josh, and Shiri
The last time we met Shiri in person was back in 2011, where we spent some time chatting on- and off-air at a café in Tel Aviv. Shiri claimed she remembered our encounter, but Mairov and I have our doubts.
Nevertheless, it was great to speak with her again. Shiri’s English is flawless, though she told us she’s still working on a non-Israeli pronunciation of some words (“did” vs. “deed”, for example).
Shiri told us that she’s beyond excited to take on this role of a lifetime. How did she land the part? A producer from “Chicago” came to Israel to see her perform in the Hebrew version of “Evita”, and soon invited her to fly to New York to audition. Since winning the role, she’s been working extremely hard to get ready, practicing about four hours a day while trying to be a mother to her two children (also in New York, along with her husband) at the same time. She loves the character of Roxie…despite the fact that she’s a murderer. Roxie is strong, smart, sexy and has big dreams, just like Shiri.
After Broadway, Shiri’s bringing the show – in English – to Tel Aviv for at least a week in March. Before that, however, she’s signed on to sit with folks such as Harel Skaat, Keren Peles, Static & Ben-El Tavori and others as a judge for “Hakochav Haba L’erevision”. That’s the Israeli reality show that will ultimately select the next Israeli representative to the Eurovision. What’s she looking for from those auditioning? Shiri answers: someone who has passion, drive, charisma and talent.
Does she think she can pick the next Netta Barzilai? “I hope so! Netta is amazing.”
Does she expect to be back on Broadway after “Chicago”? “You never know…”
After posing for a few photos with us, we parted ways. Despite sitting through many interviews that day, Shiri was friendly, gracious, warm, and genuine. And it’s quite clear that my Shiri Maimon obsession is far from over.
Shiri Maimon stars in “Chicago: The Musical” from September 21 through October 5. Click here to get tickets to the show.