Renowned British actress Maureen Lipman will perform the title song, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” in an unprecedented show about Israel’s female prime minister at the Jewish Music Institute’s online gala.
Ten years after writing the popular musical “Oliver!” composer Lionel Barth, along with his partner Roger Cook, a popular singer, songwriter and producer, were looking for a strong female character around whom to build a new show. The Times of Israel writes this.
“We both wanted to write a musical about a strong woman, and Lionel got the idea for Golda. We both read her autobiography, My Life. The music and songs were just born for us from the pages of the book,” Cook says.
The musical “Next Year in Jerusalem” was written in the mid-1970s, but Bart, who died in 1999, never saw it in production. Now the Feb. 11 online performance, hosted by the Jewish Music Institute (JMI) World Tour, an online fundraising gala for Jewish music and musicians, debuts with the title number.
Golda Meir was born in Kiev on May 3, 1898. Meir and her family moved to the United States in 1906, where she lived until her immigration to Palestine under the British Mandate in 1921. Meir served as Prime Minister of Israel from March 17, 1969 until her resignation on April 11, 1974, after the Doomsday War. She died of lymphoma on December 8, 1978, and is still the only female prime minister of Israel.
British actress Maureen Lipman will perform a wistful, catchy lullaby sung by the character Blum Mabovich, the mother of Golda Meir, a young Golda frightened by the impending pogrom in their Russian village.
“Musicals are good stories, and I think powerful women like Meir are great models of stories for musicals,” says British musical theater producer Neil Marcus, who is also a creative producer for the upcoming JMI event.
The world tour of JMI events will also include devotional, cantorial, classical and Mizrahi parts, as well as other musical theater selections.
Marcus quotes the popular shows “Here Lies Love” and “Evita” about the lives of former First Lady Imelda Marcos of the Philippines and former First Lady Eva Peron of Argentina.
“Strong people, whether they have supporters or detractors, are fertile ground for musical theater because they are larger than life characters,” he says.
“The show ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ focuses on Meir’s family, life and relationships,” Marcus says and adds that “because the musical travels from Russia to Israel to America, it can use these different musical palettes.”
“So, it’s not only about an interesting woman with a real historical story, but also about music from those countries. Since JMI celebrates world Jewish music, it seemed like a reasonable place to start,” he says.
Marcus knew Bart and had tea with him in the last years of his life: “Lionel mentioned that he wrote this musical about Golda Meir, and gave me a listen to part of the score. It’s beautiful.”
Cook, who still lives in Nashville, is eager to present the show to the public. There is interest in a full version of the concert, he said, and in light of the current closure of movie theaters due to the coronavirus pandemic, he is also open to staging it through a streaming platform.
“It’s great that there’s renewed interest in the film, and we’re working on a new draft of the script,” Cook says.
JMI’s world tour also includes the premiere of “Der Iker” (“The Problem”), written and performed by famed Yiddish singer and composer Shura Lipovsky, who has been director of JMI’s annual Yiddish song school since 2005.