VIDEO – After long months of searching for the perfect cast, Habima Theater has announced the beginning of the rehearsals for the musical “The Troupe”.
The production, based on the cult movie directed by Avi Nesher, will premiere on Saturday night, May 29. The play was written by Anat Gov and it will be directed by Ilan Ronen. The movie’s soundtrack movie received a touchup with new versions by Rami Kleinstein, who is also the play’s musical director.
Video: Shiran Valk
Judging by the cast, arduously selected out of 700 actors and singers, it seems that Habima plans to crown an heir to its successful musical production “Mary-Lou”. The roster includes Adir Miller as the director of the band (played by Tuvia Tzafir on screen), Shiri Maimon as Noa (Dafna Armony), Muki as Datner (Gidi Gov), Amir Fay Gutman as Danny (Sassi Keshet) and several other big-name Israeli stars.
Two roles were written especially for the theatrical production: Ofer Zohar will play the part of the Central Command Commander who barred the performance of “A Song for Peace”, and Tal Yarimi will portray another officer at the outpost.
“This is the first time an Israeli movie that became a success of mythological proportions is subject to a theatrical interpretation, and for us it is a special experience,” Ilan Ronen said. “We knew this movie has had a tremendous impact, but the level of interest in the production even caught us by surprise.”
A sad note
Ronen noted that the original idea for the stage production of “The Troupe” was first raised by Ilana Shoval-Shaked, editor of Yedioth Ahronoth’s weekend magazine (“7 Nights”) who passed away last July. “Ilana initiated the idea and she was the one who suggested that we pick up the gloves and go for it,” Ronen said. “Unfortunately, she is able to be part of the celebration that kicks off today.”
Unlike Avi Nesher and his partner in writing the script, Sharon Harel, who wrote about the folklore behind the military’s entertainment troupes but never experienced it, for Anat Gov it is part of her biography. “Historically speaking, this movie refers to my and director Ilan Ronen’s generation, so in large measure we are creating from our hearts,” says Gov.
In order to bring that era closer to the younger actors who were born into a reality where military troupes are negligible in Israeli society, a crash course was required.
“They work on the same schedule we used to be on in the band. They can’t believe what hit them - we pretty much tear them apart. We try to turn them into a band, and instill all the same values we had,” she says.
Gov is aware that it will not be easy to survive time’s wear and tear, but she believes in the movie’s power. “There is something very Israeli about it, in the characters, the chuzpah, the anarchism, and that hasn’t changed. The background is different, but that is what drew me to take a closer look into that period of time in today’s terms.”
Kleinstein’s interpretations express the music of the time in contemporary and updated language. “I have respect for the original and what I wanted to do is dress up the past in today’s clothes – take an accordion and electric or acoustic guitars and electronic effects.” Why not? Kleinstein says, “I am having a great time and, most of all, I like this opportunity to do something that is not me.”
Striking a chord
Nesher says he is excited by the prospect of breathing new life into the movie. “If, once upon a time, we used to correspond with the French, Russian or American culture, now, after almost 60 years, Israel is engaged in a dialogue with a local, homegrown Israeli culture. There is something beautiful in that,” he says.
“This production removes the movie from its original point in time and makes it relevant for today. For me, as a creator, there is nothing more exciting than that, since I do not create movies that last a given fleeting moment. I engage in a dialogue with my culture and hope that in 20 years time it will still strike a chord with people. It is really a great joy.”
Nesher eagerly awaits the premiere, and meanwhile tries to steer away from the rehearsals. “Once you create a movie, it is out of your control. It’s all grown up and has a life of its own. We really made a point of not being in the loop, and I am curious to see what these very talented people will do with the groundwork we laid.”