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Jewish, the Musical

Jewish, the Musical tells the story of Jewish people in short dialogue, songs, and dances, which are presented by eight students of the Manhattan Arts Public School during the annual school performance in front of Times Square audiences. Only two out of eight students are Jewish, but the rehearsals and the show itself become a way for 10 Grade students to learn about the culture and history of the people who are at the center of the musical and also start their own quests to discoverr their own ethnic roots as part of their American identity.

Manhattan Arts is a specialized public high school concentrated on music arts, very tightly connected with The Julliard School and NYU Musical Theatre Program and most of its students aspire to have careers in music and especially in music theatre (Broadway). This year's show was written and is being prepared under the close supervision of their new music teacher Olga Shapiro. 

Olga is a Ukrainian-born singer-songwriter and translator of Yiddish songs into English. Though Ukrainian and Russian are her first languages, in this musical Olga attempts, with the help of a couple of talented students collaborating with her on show creation, to tell the story of Jewish people in songs and dances and tell it in English. Olga's mother, based currently in NYC is busy taking care of the household, but she has a moderately successful career in the Kiyv Opera House before they immigrated. Her husband, Olga's father, is a professor at NYU, who is well known in the world as one of the top researchers of Yiddish songs and currently teaches the history of Jewish music and songs at New York University in Manhattan.     

Ms. Shapiro, a 32-years old, writer who already published a couple of books with her poems and short stories and aspires to become a full-time writer sometime soon, when her financial situation would become secure enough to afford that. 

Translating poems and songs from other languages to Russian is one of her favorites and she has a beautiful voice. Her journey of discovering her people's history through songs, especially by bringing them from fading into obscurity to the mainstream of the English language, inspires young students to make their own first steps on the road to discovering their own cultural heritage, including Spanish, African, Asian, and the Mediterranean backgrounds and opens them to think of themselves not just simply as Americans, but Americans who very much familiar with their ethnic and cultural roots and are very proud of them.  To Joseph and Jenny, this year's rehearsals and then the presentation of the show stirs new emotions and opened new horizons on the road to exploring their modern Jewish identity.

When "Hava Nagila", "Tumbalalaika", "A Yiddishe Mama", "Hatikvah", "A Bisele Mazel", "Hevenu Shalom Aleichem", "Tango in Auschwitz", "Spring in the Ghetto", "I Love You Much Too Much" and other Jewish standards are translated and adapted to English, by talented lyricists, these songs open to the world the DNA of the Jewish identity and collective memory, they enable the show to tell the story without the language barrier, be it Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, Polish or other languages in which genuine Jewish songs exist, but don't have the ability to be heard and understood by global audiences. Jewish, the Musical fixes this problem. 

Olga's talent does more than just translate them, she finds the roots of each human story in these songs and transforms them into universal stories while keeping the references to the song's origins and that makes them so special and appealing to the general public, not only to Jewish audiences. A good example of how a traditional Yiddish "Mezinka" is transformed into a universal English-language wedding song that still sounds unmistakeably Jewish (titled - "Forever")

The songs are arranged in different styles, but most notably in klezmer pop and swing, as well as hip hop, and ballroom, often with Chasidic jazz connotations

It's a story of two Jewish teenagers, a boy, and a girl, who are just friends and try to figure out how to embrace their Jewish cultural identity while remaining cool and close friends with their 10-Grade classmates in today's public school. In the process of working on the show and the teenagers learn how to embrace and be proud of their own ethnic identities and heritage while accepting and respecting others. 

Every year students of the Manhattan Music Arts public school prepare an annual concert in the form of a musical, and this time it's called Jewish, the Musical. The author, music teacher, Mr. Shapiro,  translated and adapted the old traditional Jewish songs to English as a way to make the best Jewish tunes available to wide audiences. This year's concert is scheduled to be streamed live from the heart of Times Square and is going to be broadcast on a few major media platforms, including national TV channels, Facebook Live, and YouTube. 

Jewish, the Musical presents the best of Jewish song and dance through the comedic crazy-straw of a high school show gone wrong and the teacher trying to keep chaos together. Songs are based on traditional Jewish folk tunes (e.g., "Dayeinu" and "Hatikvah" among others as well as on other tunes, for example in the song "How To Be Strong" or "Happy Birthday!"[Odesa, Ukrainian-Jewish tune]) with original lyrics in English and modern arrangements fusing klezmer with pop, hip hop, and ballroom swing.  

Jewish, the Musical tells the story of present-day teenagers, most of whom are not Jewish, discovering the cultural identity and the story of Jewish people through rehearsals and then presentation of a school musical in front of vast audiences while learning an important lesson: be proud of your own ethnic identity while respecting others no matter your background and be cool. 

Flashbacks from the rivers of Babylon, liberation day in Buchenwald, grandma's Channukah candles flickering all night, people on TV mama always points out exclaiming "He/she is Jewish!", "Lekhaim, dude!" and a superhero from a metaverse fighting antisemitism bring out reminiscences from Jewish history and come alive in a flamboyant spectacle that makes you think "Jewish? OMG!!!"  

While the best Yiddish songs, unfortunately, fade into obscurity, along with the language, Jewish song tradition is at risk of being eroded and forgotten and as Hebrew speakers are limited to only 15 million worldwide the English translations and adaptations of the top Jewish songs have the ability not only preserve and revive the beautiful treasure chest of most cherished songs that reflect the ethic DNA and collective memory but also, due to such outstanding quality of lyrics that sometimes are better than the originals, and a new approach to musical arrangements, inspire in global audiences (as over 6 million views already showed), not only Jewish but especially non-Jewish listeners to pursue their genuine interest in the beauty of these timeless gems and especially in people who created them. That's could be seen as another, so maybe even more effective way to fight antisemitism in today's world. 

A few first very basic demos are available from the link below: 

Jewish, the Musical (first demos)

P.S. While preserving and reviving the best and most beautiful Jewish songs and heritage opening them to the worldwide audiences, Jewish, the Musical unequivocally supports and promotes the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance, and diversity. 

Under development by Hudson Kin (Rigli), a member of the Dramatists Guild of America

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SOUND WE LIKE  and plan to incorporate into the show: