This summer for three weeks only in Montréal, Canada’s longest-running and most important Yiddish-language theatre company, the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT), presents the Canadian and Yiddish World Premiere of It Shoulda Been You at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.
Presented in Yiddish with English and French supertitles, this vibrant revamped production of the 2015 Broadway musical will take over the Segal main stage from June 4th to the 25th under the guidance of Director and Choreographer Jim White.
Earlier this week, Montreal Theatre Hub captured raw video footage of some of the musical numbers from the show and spoke with cast members Rosie Callaghan (leading the show as Jenny Steinberg), Naomi Krajden (playing bride-to-be Rebecca Steinberg), and Mikey Samra (bringing to life Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend, Marty Kaufman) in anticipation of the upcoming premiere.
In the charming rom-com It Shoulda Been You, worlds collide and families bicker as a Jewish bride and Catholic groom are set to wed. When an unexpected ex-boyfriend crashes the ceremony, however, an event already on the edge gets tipped right over it. Plots are hatched, pacts are made, secrets are exposed – and the sister of the bride is left to turn a tangled mess into happily ever after.
“In Yiddish, you say?”
Samra and Krajden are no strangers to the Yiddish theatre scene after having performed in DWYT’s most recent full-book musical, The Producers, a co-production with The Côte St-Luc Dramatic Society which received public and critical acclaim at the Segal Centre last season.
“It never becomes easy,” Samra muses upon being asked about the challenges of returning to the stage to act and sing in Yiddish. “You still have to adjust to memorizing in a foreign language. The more you do it, though, the hardest part actually becomes figuring out the character. You can read a script in English again and again and again, but the second it’s in Yiddish, it becomes a completely different character.”
Callaghan, who here makes her DWYT debut, seems to have adapted strikingly quick. “As someone who loves dialect, learning the new language was something that was very satisfying for me.” Her work has been praised by the resident Yiddish team, who have here entrusted her to carry half of a hundred-minute show.
Distraught by the Yiddish? Fret not – there are French and English supertitles for non-speakers, not to mention that much of dialogue and music in the show is still very much presented in English.
“Don’t be scared,” Callaghan reassures. “In fact, one of my greatest regrets is not having the courage to come see a DWYT musical before. They are so incredibly accessible.” Krajden adds, “if anything, the show is only complemented and amplified by the Yiddish.”
A big wedding affair
In addition to being adapted into a new language, this fresh production distinguishes itself from the 2015 Broadway version by increasing the chorus, bringing the cast total to twenty-four new and veteran DWYT community performers.
“We have a huge ensemble that significantly adds to all of the numbers,” explains Callaghan. “The hotel is presented almost as a character in itself with all of these interesting personalities who work there. The ambiance becomes so much more lifted with so many lively people who are milling about.”
Samra continues, “the show itself, without giving too much away, is so much about equality.” Indeed, It Shoulda Been You has been widely credited for making social issues such as marriage equality and self-acceptance in the face of pre-existing prejudices part of the mainstream dialogue of theatre. “The aspect of having more people in it as well as having the Yiddish just adds another dimension to that.”
It’s all in the details
One of the reasons we know this party will go to plan? Jim White.
The director-choreographer returns to the Segal for the eighth time, with his past credits at the Centre including Lies My Father Told Me, On Second Avenue, and Guys and Dolls.
“Working with Jim has by far been the most rewarding aspect of this process,” reveals Samra. His castmates agree in unison. “He’s truly an actor’s director, meaning that his focus is on the actor in order to get the story across,” shares Krajden.
Samra elaborates, “I’ve been fortunate enough to know Jim for a while. What I love about him is no matter what your part is – whether you’re a lead or in the ensemble – everyone receives the exact same treatment. He makes you believe that every single aspect must come together in order to make the best show possible. He’ll talk to you about shows he’s seen in the past where he’ll only mention specific ensemble members. He remembers great performances of people who were all the way in the back in the corner because, to him, they were the ones who stood out.”
White adroitly ministers and brings to marriage an all-star team: Barbara Anselmi’s sprightly score is in the expert hands of Musical Director Nick Burgess (whose past credits at the Segal include Guys and Dolls, The Producers, and Soul Doctor) as Brian Hargrove’s original book and lyrics herein receive translation by DWYT co-chairs Edit Kuper and Aron Gonshor.
The lavish set design has been creatively crafted by Marjolaine Provençal (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at the Segal), while Costume Designer Louise Bourret (whose many Segal musical credits include I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, The Producers, and Million Dollar Quartet) brings her signature fabulous flair to the production. They are joined by Segal veterans Luc Prairie (Lighting Designer) and Peter Balov (Head of Sound).
On what they hope audiences will take from their experience at the theatre, the leading ladies echo, “I would love it if a girl could just walk out from this show thinking, ‘I don’t need to put on makeup or a fancy dress – I can be beautiful as I am.’”
An endearing show with a powerful message, the Canadian and World Yiddish Premiere of It Shoulda Been You plays at the Segal only until June 25th. Save the date.
Interview by Montreal Theatre Hub Editor-in-Chief Camila Fitzgibbon
The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre presents “It Shoulda Been You”
When: June 4 – June 25, 2017
Where: The Segal Centre for Performing Arts (5170 chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, Montréal, H3W 1M7)
Admission: $45 – $60. Group, Senior, Student, Under 30 discounts available. Subject to availability.
Box Office: 514.739.7944 | www.segalcentre.org
Presented In Yiddish with French and English supertitles
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission
Book and Lyrics by BRIAN HARGROVE
Music and Concept by BARBARA ANSELMI
Translation of Yiddish Book and Lyrics by ARON GONSHOR & EDIT KUPER
DWYT Artistic Director BRYNA WASSERMAN
Director and Choreographer JIM WHITE
Music Director NICK BURGESS
Set Designer MARJOLAINE PROVENÇAL
Costume Designer LOUISE BOURRET
Lighting Designer LUC PRAIRIE
Head of Sound PETER BALOV
Stage Manager ISABEL FAIA
Assistant Stage Managers STEPHEN ALARIE & ALLIE GREENLEAF
Assistant to the Director and Dance Captain NAOMI KRAJDEN
(in alphabetical order)
AMANDA BENN – Ensemble
ROSIE CALLAGHAN – Jenny Steinberg
MOISHE CAMPBELL – Walt
JOANNE CUTLER – Georgette Howard
CRAIG DALLEY – Ensemble
PAULA WOLFMAN FRANK – Ensemble
KAREN KARPMAN – Judy Steinberg
BETTY KIS MARER – Mimsy
NAOMI KRAJDEN – Rebecca Steinberg
JORDANA KUJAVSKY – Ensemble
HANNAH LECOUSY – Ensemble
SAMANTHA LEVY – Ensemble
CHERYL-ANN LILIETH – Annie Sheps
NICOLAS MANCUSO – Ensemble
MIKE MELINO – Greg Madison
SAM MELNICK – Ensemble
MERV MIDDLING – George Howard
JUSTIN MUNIZ – Brian Howard
KARYN PELLATT-CARON – Aunt Sheila
MARC-ANDRÉ POULIN – Albert
MIKEY SAMRA – Marty Kaufman
SAM STEIN – Murray Steinberg
MÉLANIE THOMPSON – Ensemble
STAN UNGER – Uncle Morty
NICK BURGESS – Band Leader / Piano
DANIEL FUCHS – Violin
BETH MCKENNA – Reed
CLAIRE DEVLIN – Reed
ZOU ZOU ROBIDOUX – Cello
MIKE DE MASI – Bass
PARKER BERT – Drums / Percussion