If 2017 was Hollywood’s year of Gal Gadot, 2018 may yet be Broadway’s year of Shiri Maimon.
According to initial reports, come September the Israeli pop star is set to star as Roxie Hart in Kander and Ebb’s Chicago, Broadway’s second longest-running musical. Very few Israelis have made the transatlantic leap from Dizengoff Street to the Great White Way; Chaim Topol’s Tevye and Dudu Fisher’s Jean Valjean are the rare exceptions. Maimon, who first captured Israeli hearts a decade and a half ago when she came in second place on the first season of Kochav Nolad, Israel’s American Idol, certainly shares her predecessors’ raw talent and workhorse reputation. And as audiences at the Ambassador Theatre will soon discover, she’s also got Gal Gadot’s healthy chutzpah.
Born 36 years ago in a suburb of Haifa to a Sephardic family, Maimon served in the Israeli Air Force’s entertainment troupe. After Kochav Nolad came a series of hit records and–most memorably–an appearance in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev, where she placed fourth.
I last saw Maimon as the eponymous heroine of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita at Habima Theater in Tel Aviv about two years ago. Suffice to say that our homegrown diva was more than up for the challenge. As first reported by the Israeli entertainment journalist Guy Pines, Chicago’s producers also attended one night, and apparently shared my enthusiasm. They summoned Maimon to auditions in New York, a contract was signed, and soon Maimon will follow in the footsteps of Liza Minnelli, Brooke Shields, Melanie Griffith, who have all played Roxie on Broadway (not to mention Renée Zellweger from the film version). To paraphrase Fred Ebb, The name on everybody’s lips / Is gonna be Shiri.
Tal Kra-Oz is a writer based in Tel Aviv.