"I’m the Jew!" – Jewish News

Posted By on April 7, 2022

Moments after being welcomed to Twitter by Matt Lucas (@RealMattLucas), actor Elliot Levey (@ellevey) was receiving compliments about his pineapple. I loved you and your pineapple very very much! said one enthusiastic Tweet tailed with a pineapple emoji, which would have baffled anyone who has not yet seen the musical Cabaret in which Elliot stars.

The prop for the perfect Love Song

Audiences who have seen the show since it opened at The Playhouse in February, wont have forgotten the exquisite moment when Elliot, as elderly Jewish fruit shop owner Herr Schultz, presents non- Jewish landlady Fraulein Schneider with the tropical fruit. To give some context to this gift, a fresh pineapple in depression-ridden 1937 Germany was a luxury seldom seen, and the duet It Couldnt Please Me More (aka The Pineapple Song) conveys this and leads to the couples engagement. Their wedding, which uses the smashing of glass to signal Kristallnacht, is a sub-plot that was excised from the 1972 film Cabaret. But Elliot saw it so long ago that most of the shows content was a total surprise. I had these vague images in my brain and the music was familiar, but I entered with genuine ignorance you cant fake because Id never seen it on stage, he recalls.

Elliot as Robespierre(left) and Toby Stephens as Danton in Dantons Death

To say the actor, best known for Shakespeare at the National and persuasive TV roles, has since got to grips with Cabaret is an understatement. As we went to press, the man who doesnt do musicalswas about to hear if hed won an Olivier award for best supporting actor in a musical. Ahead of the drum roll, Elliot was endearingly modest about being one of Cabarets 11 nominations. Theyve never really come my way before, so I was thrilled about this one, he said. But then he was back to heaping praise on the shows director Rebecca Frecknall, whom he referred to as the proper best and Omari Douglas who was playing Isherwood Cliff Bradshaw , before enthusing about the new cast that takes over the Kit Kat from April 7.

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Liza Sadovy, Elliot Levey Eddie Redmayne, Jessie Buckley and Omari Douglas at Olivier Awards nominations

Now Amy Lennox is Sally Bowles replacing Jessie Buckley and Fra Fee is taking on the role of The Emcee from Eddie Redmayne, with whom he starred in the film Les Miserables.Elliot and his understudy got Covidat the farewell party, but he remains philosophical despite missing the new casts first preview.

Fra Fee as The Emcee

It was really sad when they left because we built the show together as a group. And its a little family. But it would have been really sad ifwe were all finishing and if Id been leaving Id have been devastated. There is also a sense of spring cleaning with new people joining, which isa real shot in the arm. Theyre so keen and enthusiastic. Not that we werent, but everyone has to up their game and sort of go back to the drawing board because its new again. Fra has a different energy to Eddie, and the most astonishing voice Ive ever heard. As soon as he opens his gob, its amazing.

Elliots engagement dance with Stewart-Clarke as Ernst Ludwig

Elliot is also giving his pineapple to a new Fraulein Schneider (Vivien Parry) after 150 shows courting Liza Sadovy. Its not quite speed dating, but Ive got to find a different way to win her heart. In the new era of equal representation, it isnt lost on Elliot that being cast as the Jewish fruiterer falls within the remit. Born in Leeds in 1973 which was like London in the 1950s the actor grew up proper frum, wearing a yarmulke and laying tefillin every day. I was the full megillah. Although his parents werent Orthodox, Elliots father, a Geordie, was a tad mystical. So they sent me to some ridiculous Lubavitch cheder, but I thought it was fun.

Hitting puberty, however, the once zealous Talmud student had an epiphany and spent the next 20 years rejecting religion. Its only now, in my old age, Ive gone chill. Its fine. Its good. Now Elliot is loving being a member of Finchley Progressive and was delighted when his friends expressed rabbi envy at the sight of Rabbi Rebecca Birk at the barmitzvahs of his three sons.My boys are cool north London Jews who are blonde and blue-eyed, like my missus. They look like the Jew I want to be. The Jew who never gets cast as a Jew.

Elliot with his wife Emma

That his missus Emma Loach is the daughter of film director Ken, renowned for his Israel critiques and Palestinian support is a bit of a curveball for those who like their politics clear cut. But Ken has been with them at shul and Elliot has nothing but admiration for his father-in-law, who has yet to cast him in any of his projects. Ive probably made myself the last actor in Equity ever to be employed in a Ken Loach film, says the openly Israel-supporting performer.

Elliot plans to stay in Cabaret for the next six months, but will also start rehearsals with director Dominic Cooke for a reimagined production of CP Taylors Good with David Tennant and Fenella Woolgar. Its a sort of accompaniment to Cabaret as its set in Germany at the start of Nazism and revolves around a friendship between a Jewish psychoanalyst my role and an academic who is unconsciously drawn into the party. So it slowly descends into one running the camp and the other in a camp.

First staged 20 years ago, Good is described as the definitive play about the Holocaust in English theatre and Elliot believes CP Taylor, a Glaswegian Jew, has written the most brilliantly-conceived Jewish role Ive ever read. He adds: Its full of irony, self-hatred and that dont lump me in with all the other Jews were not all the same attitude.

Elliot with David-Tennant soon to-appear together in-CP-Taylors Good

Originally scheduled for 2020, the pandemic put an end to that, but Elliot is delighted to be moving from one Jewish role to another. Yes, Im a Jew now, he exclaims, but has an unfavourable view of like-for-like casting if the performance isnt authentic.I was wholly convinced by Tamsin Greig as the Jewish mum in Friday Night Dinner but despite other peoples verdicts, for me, Tom Hardy as the horrible gangster in Peaky Blinders is the least convincing Jew. I couldnt watch it. Its just a horrible, non-Jewish semi-racist performance. If the minority being represented doesnt think the performance is authenticyouve f***ed it.

Elliot Levey never fails to be incontrovertible and also now convinces as a pineapple grower. My missus bought me a pineapple bush in a pot as a first night present. Apparently they go dormant in winter andyou dont water them. But its on top of the fridge and suddenly its gone hello and sprung back into life. Much like Elliot dancing in a musical.

For Cabaret tickets at The Playhouse, visit: http://www.kitkat.club/cabaret-london. For Good tickets at The Pinter, visit: http://www.haroldpintertheatre.co.uk/good

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"I'm the Jew!" - Jewish News

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