NEW YORK — As she posed for photographers in an off-shoulder red dress at Sardi’s restaurant in New York’s Times Square on Friday morning, it seemed Israeli singer Shiri Maimon has settled into her new role as Roxie Hart in the musical “Chicago.” But up until a few days ago, she said, this new adventure still hadn’t sunk in.
Maimon spoke to the press two weeks before her premiere on Broadway at the famous Sardi’s restaurant, where the walls are lined with caricatures of showbiz celebs. It is steps away from the theater that will soon become her temporary second home.
“I didn’t even think it was an option to do Broadway,” she confessed to The Times of Israel. “Look, I’m a dreamer. Since I was a little kid, I always dreamt about all those things that are actually happening to me right now, but I always thought of Broadway as unreachable.”
Maimon said a few months ago she got a call asking her if she’d be willing to come over to New York to play Roxie Hart on Broadway. “I thought it was a joke at first,” she laughed.
The decisive phone call came from the CEO of Helicon, her record label in Israel. Maimon recalled that he asked her “very casually and in a calm voice” about performing the role. It turned out that someone close to famous Broadway impresario Barry Weissler had been on vacation in Israel a few weeks before and seen her in a production of “Evita.”
From there, everything else fell into place: she arrived to New York for a formal audition and got the part. Soon she began rehearsing both in Israel and the US, attended fittings and photoshoots.
“It’s starting to get real now,” she said. “And still, even if it’s a big deal, at the end of the day it’s a stage, there is an audience: I’m used to it. This is what I do, it’s my work, it’s my pleasure. It’s my dream come true.”
Maimon will fill Roxie Hart’s tap shoes for a relatively short run, from September 21 to October 6, with eight shows a week. But her “Chicago” adventure will not end there: the international touring company of the musical will join her in Israel for a few performances from March 7 to March 11 in Tel Aviv. In the interim, Israeli fans will be able to catch Maimon on the hit reality TV show, “Hakochav Haba” (Rising Star Israel). Maimon herself was discovered on a similar program, “Kochav Nolad” (A Star is Born) in 2003.
Tony-award winning Broadway producer Barry Weissler, who cast Maimon told the Times of Israel that there was no denying that the Israeli singer could master the role.
“She’s very talented and she’s very beautiful,” Weissler said. “She sings, she dances, she’s got a vibrant personality. How could we miss that?” Weissler said he watched her on tape and in concert and concluded she’d “make a great Roxie.”
“She is not known in this country. We intend to make her known,” said Weissler.
Playing Roxie, Weissler said, takes talent, but also requires intelligence to navigate the material and blend in with the existing team.
“You have to make sure there is a melding of personalities on stage. We have to create a fusion, we do it, and it’s not always easy, but believe it or not, Shiri is one of the easiest ones we’ve had.”
He added that this is not the first time that “Chicago” features a foreign performer as Roxie. “All of our Roxies are different: We’ve had tall we’ve had short, we have Black, Asian, White. We’ve even had a Japanese Roxie who didn’t speak a word of English.We taught her phonetically and she did the show. She was dynamite,” said Weissler.
For Maimon, her first role in English is definitely presenting some challenges.
“As a start I think the biggest challenge is to have fun, because it is stressful,” she told The Times of Israel with a smile. “I’m here with the whole family — I have two little kids — so I’m trying to adjust everything, and then, of course the language is not my comfort zone but I’m going to work on it. That’s what I’m doing right now, rehearsing.”
More than 31 million people across the world have already seen “Chicago” on stage and millions more saw the 2002 film. It is also one of the longest running musicals on Broadway.
For her first number, Miss Shiri Maimon – שירי מימון would like to give you a sneak peek of her song of love and devotion. Don't miss her Broadway debut as Roxie Hart starting September 21.
Posted by Chicago The Musical on Tuesday, 14 August 2018
“’Chicago,’ as cynical and as dark and as entertaining as it is, has become a mirror to what is going on in the world today,” Weissler said. “It’s about the hunger for stardom, the kinds of people who rise to the top — people unnamed in this conversation but I think you know what I mean — people who are television stars and have the power to motivate people. It’s a crazy time we are living in and I think ‘Chicago’ exemplifies that.”
Maimon added that it is a “great honor” for her to be the first ever Israeli actress to perform on the Ambassador Theater stage, where she is an unofficial de facto diplomat.
“I think when I’m on stage, I’m just celebrating my own dream coming true. But if I go outside and let’s say there is a protest or someone criticizes the fact that I am from Israel, I’ll say, ‘Yes, I’m from Israel and I’m proud of it.’ So yes, I am an ambassador, I have no problem with that.”