'Bridge between people'
'Dudu' Fisher to bring music to Warner Theatre
by Marlena Thompson
Special to WJW
Though David "Dudu" Fisher is internationally renown for his tenor voice, he is much more than a singer -- he is a phenomenon. How many other Orthodox Jews have performed in one of Broadway's most popular shows -- without once violating the Sabbath?
Fisher, who played the lead role, Jean Valjean, in Les Miserables, on Broadway during the winter of '93 -'94, managed to do just that. He was allowed to have a substitute fill in for him during Friday evening and Saturday matinee performances. Even though his stint on Broadway was almost a decade ago, Fisher still speaks about the experience with a degree of awe:
"That I was asked to do the role in the first place was in itself unbelievable. But that the producers agreed to allow a substitute to sing for me so that I might continue to observe Shabbat and holidays, that was, I think, the biggest achievement in my life."
This is a significant admission, because Fisher is a man with a long list of very impressive achievements.
Born in Petach Tikvah, Israel, in 1951, Fisher became cantor of the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv. During a visit to London, he happened to see a performance of Les Miserables and was smitten. When the play was brought to Israel, although Fisher had had no previous professional stage experience, he felt he was destined to play the starring role. He remained in the part for three years, 1987-1990.
He has also recorded more than 20 albums and sung the role of Steven Spielberg's Moses in the Hebrew version of The Prince of Egypt. In 1999, his one man off-Broadway show, Never on Friday, an anecdotal and musical autobiography, opened at the Jewish Repertory Theater in New York. He subsequently took the well-reviewed show on the road -- a road that eventually led back to Israel.
Fisher says his upcoming concert at the Warner Theater in Washington on June 25, "An Evening of Jewish Song and Renaissance," is "a mixture of Never on Friday and talking about the current situation in Israel." Fisher has quite a lot to say on that subject -- and also what he believes to be his role in the situation:
"I want to bring audiences optimism about Israel. Here, in the U.S., everyone thinks that nobody 'lives' in Israel anymore -- that there is only fear. When I remain here for a long time, I begin to think the same thing. But it's not so. For example, when I went back to Israel after Pesach, I arrived at 5:30 -- and already at 8:30, my friends came by to take me to a cafe. That's the message I want to spread here -- that we Israelis are alive, and that we will continue to stay alive."
Fisher sees himself as a "bridge between peoples" -- vis a vis his music.
"In Israel there are factions, as you know -- the Ethiopians versus the Russians, the secular versus the observant, etc. I represent a bridge, after all, I am an Orthodox Jew who appears on Broadway. Music and song bring people together. And now more than ever is a time for us to stick together and remain united."
Despite the excitement of the entertainment world, Fisher stresses his cantorial role.
"I am still a cantor," says Fisher emphatically. "For 22 years I have been the cantor at Kutsher's Hotel in the Catskills during the High Holidays. I will be there this year, too. I have a deep love for being a cantor. I wouldn't ever want to give it up."
David "Dudu" Fisher will be performing An Evening of Jewish Song and Renaissance at the Warner Theatre on Tuesday, June 25, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18-$100. For information, call 202-332-5600.
The event is sponsored by the Washington Office of the American Friends of Lubavitch.
This story was published in the WashingtonJewishWeek
on: Thursday, June 13, 2002