The Merchants of Helsinki

July 11, 2017 by Community Editor
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Jac Weinstein’s (1883-1976) cabaret show The Merchants of Helsinki from 1930 depicts -with dollops of characteristic Jewish humour – the economic and existential crisis of the Jewish community in Helsinki in the late 1920s.

With funny, cheeky and tender songs – many set to well-known traditional melodies ranging from cantorial music to foxtrot and folk – the show also features a satirical one-act play about the Jewish nouveau riche.

Originally named “Revue Evening”, the The Merchants of Helsinki follows the tradition of annually updated New Year’s revues, which had been popular already in Paris and became widespread also in Berlin in the early 20th century.  Besides much good-humoured krechtzing (moaning) about the economic depression, Weinstein’s revue deals with other social issues of the Jewish community in that time and place, such as the challenges of  maintaining traditional Jewish lifestyle and the future prospects of the younger generation.

The manuscript of the revue came to light in 2005, when Dr Simo Muir (University of Leeds) was doing an inventory of forgotten archival material found in the heart of the former Jewish clothing business district in Helsinki. Together with Dr Joseph Toltz (Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney) the work has been re-invigorated and re-worked for contemporary – but authentic – performance in Sydney, Australia!

The Merchants of Helsinki is performed in a mix of Yiddish and English (with full translations supplied!) by Joanna Weinberg, Geoff Sirmai, Doron Chester and Daniella Mirels. Joanna is the force behind (and the voice up front of) a slew of award-winning cabaret, stage and screen hits including Pandora’s Bag, Lifeforce, Every Single Saturday, the Piano Diaries, Baroness Bianka’s Bloodsongs, 12 Shoes and Sinksongs – the inspiration for her feel-good international feature film Goddess. Geoff is a well-known stage and screen personality in the music, theatre and comedy world whose recent appearances include The Laden Table, The Diary of Anne Frank, Apples & Pears and The Merchant of Venice. Doron (The Laden Table, The Original Grease, Keating! The Musical) will soon be seen in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, opening at the Lyric Theatre in September. Dani is a recent graduate of the Australian Institute of Music and recent star appearances include (The Original Grease, Into The Woods, and shortly, FAME)

The Merchants of Helsinki – Wed 9 August 7.30pm   Part of the Out of the Shadows Festival

The Sound Lounge, Seymour Centre

Cnr Cleveland & City Rd, Chipppendale

Duration 70 minutes: Tickets: Adults $25, Concession $20

Bookings: or call 9351 7940

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