Broadway hits with a touch of klezmer

RENOWNED Israeli singer Dudu Fisher has spent a lifetime performing on the world stage, but he is always looking for something new.

So, what can fans expect when he performs in Australia thi month?  Well, he’s adding a touch of klezmer to the repertoire. A nod back to his singing roots perhaps.

For while he may have achieved worldwide fame with his portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables in the Israeli production staged from 1987 to 1990, before reprising the role in London and New York, he actually started his career as a cantor.

Since then he has performed for royalty in Britain and Thailand, and for former US president Bill Clinton. He was also the first Israeli artist permitted to sing in the Soviet Union in the days before Perestroika.

On top of all that Fisher, who turns 60 later this year, has 38 albums to his name and keeps rolling out new recordings.

But he’s delighted to step out of the studio and perform live for fans around the globe.

“I love to be in Australia, I love the people there,” he told The AJN by phone from Florida.

“It’s always great to go back to places. Whenever they call you back, you know that you were successful and it’s nice to come back.”

Fisher has some treats in store for his fans at his shows.

“The Sydney concert is going to be more Broadway-style, the Jerusalem songs from my new [just completed] album and klezmer,” he explains.

“Melbourne is going to be more of the klezmer, and more of the newer Yiddish, Chassidic songs.”

Having performed so many styles of music in his career, naturally it is hard for Fisher to pick a favourite.

“Every time I work on a project I love the songs of that project,” he enthuses. “I really like klezmer music because it has become world music. Today, klezmer is being played not only for Jewish people, but also for non-Jews. There are festivals all over the world.

“But I love to sing Broadway music. I love to sing that because I know that it will not be possible for me to do all these roles that I would like to do on Broadway because of the yarmulke.

So I like to sing it in my own show. Every song that comes into my stage program is very special to me.”

He says Les Miserables will always have a special place in his heart.

“I love the whole story around it and it definitely made my name very famous, not only for Jewish people but also for non-Jewish people,” he says.

Fisher’s busy schedule shows no sign of slowing down in 2011.

“I just shot a new program in Israel for American television, and I just cut a DVD and a CD of Yiddish klezmer music. Plus I’m working on my children’s TV show.”

Fisher says his one regret with his packed schedule is missing Israel when he is abroad. “For me it’s very difficult because I’ve got my kids there, my family’s there, my friends are there. It’s very, very difficult to be alone on the road.”

Having studied at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music, he took up the cantorial position at the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv, followed by four years in South Africa. In 2005, he became the chief cantor of New York Synagogue.

Fisher’s Judaism has been paramount throughout his career and he was the first actor on Broadway and the West End to be excused from performing on Shabbat and all Jewish holidays.

He says that it has become easier to be observant while touring the world.“For many Israelis, wherever they are they can always find a Chabad, a kosher meal and a minyan.”

But Fisher’s Jewish identity goes beyond just observance. “Everything that I do in my life, I’m sure that even when I sing a musical, I sing it in a Jewish way. It’s in my blood.”

Dudu Fisher’s concerts are on Thursday, March 3, 8pm, at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney; on Monday, March 7, 7.30pm, at the Dallas Brookes Centre, 300 Albert Street, East Melbourne; on Tuesday, March 8, 7.30pm, at the Brisbane Synagogue, 98 Margaret Street. Bookings: www.trybooking.com.

REPORT: GARETH NARUNSKY

PHOTO: Dudu Fisher has spent a lifetime on the stage.