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“The music moves the story”

June, 2010

In 1927, Al Jolson appeared on screen in blackface and sang Kol Nidre, Dirty Hands, Dirty Face and other songs.

In the infancy of talkies, The Jazz Singer marked the first time a feature-length film was presented with synchronized dialogue sequences. Audiences were wowed. But it was just a movie with songs, says Elan Kunin, writer in residence at the Segal Centre. “In a musical, the music moves the story.”

Kunin’s Jazz Singer, playing at The Yiddish Theatre, has been a labour of love. “My attempt was to capture the era,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to update it, I was trying to give them a taste of the time. I took the styles of the 1920s and incorporated some modern touches.”

Non-stop music in The Jazz Singer. Photo courtesy of Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre

A defining part of the Roaring Twenties is the slang, and Kunin and three translators had trouble translating the patois of the time into Yiddish, so much of the production will be in English.

In his 13 years at the Segal, he has adapted such works as Duddy Kravitz and Lies My Father Told Me. “I have the luxury of going crazy,” he says.

In 2005, Kunin and his wife, Lisa Rubin, were nominated for Drama Desk Awards for their off-Broadway musical review On Second Avenue.

He is passionate and excited about The Jazz Singer, in which he and Rubin appear together.

“It’s electrifying. It’s non-stop dancing and singing, a production to die for – and our six-piece band – just wait till you hear this band!”

The Jazz Singer runs at the Segal Centre’s Yiddish Theatre until June 27. In Yiddish with French and English supertitles. 514-739-7944,



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