It's been about two and a half years since Dudu Fisher last performed in New York, in a one-man show at the Jewish Repertory Theatre. That show was wittily called Never on Friday, an allusion to the fact that Fisher -- a devout Jew from Israel and a cantor, no less -- is prevented by his faith from working on Friday evenings (or on Saturday matinees or Jewish holidays). This was an issue when Fisher was starring on Broadway as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables in 1995; but, famously, the actor was permitted to skip shows for religious reasons and another performer filled in as Valjean on those occasions.
Now, he has a new solo show -- Something Old, Something New, set to begin performances on October 15 at the Mazer Theatre, 197 East Broadway -- and he says that it's quite different from the last one. "Never on Friday was written from my point of view," he says. "It was about a Jewish boy who comes from a religious family and never dreamt to be in any kind of show, let alone a Broadway musical. The new show, although I'm still wearing a kippah, was written by Richard Jay-Alexander -- a Cuban guy -- so it's a lot less Jewish!" (The program includes popular Broadway songs as well as some Jewish standards.)
Something Old, Something New is also directed by Jay-Alexander, former executive director of Cameron Mackintosh Inc., whom Fisher first met and worked with during his time in Les Miz and about whom Fisher says, "Richard is great. About a year and a half ago, I told him that I was very frustrated: I once had the chance to be on Broadway because Cameron Mackintosh allowed me not to play on Friday nights and Saturday matinees but, since then, [other producers] haven't let me do that. They all said, 'Look, this is Broadway, not Tel Aviv.' I decided that I would rent an apartment in Manhattan so that I'd have a home base here; I thought if I could be here more often and mingle with people, something might occur. Then I called Richard again and we went to dinner -- and, out of the blue, he said he'd like to work with me on a show. I looked at him and said, 'Richard, I can't pay you the kind of money you usually get.' I know what he charges and whom he works with! [e.g., Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Ricky Martin]. But he said, 'Never mind, we'll work out something.'"
As it turned out, the new show was delayed by the events of 9/11/01. "Richard lives right there on John Street," Fisher notes. "He was really a broken guy right after it happened, because for an American to see something like that with his own eyes is really unbelievable. We Israelis are more used to it, with buses exploding on the street every day -- although, of course, this was on a much bigger and more horrifying scale. We didn't start talking about the show again for a several months, but we've been working on it since then. It's sort of my story from Richard's point of view and it's great fun."
Though Fisher began his career at a young age and has performed all over the world, including appearances before President Bill Clinton (and Hillary) and the Royal Family of England, he still remains dazzled by the magic of show biz and has fond memories of his stint in Les Miz. "I'll never forget my first day of rehearsals," he says. "I was very scared about how the company would accept me. I thought, 'I'm so different. I'm not a species that they're used to.' I remember that my heart was beating as I walked up the stairs to my dressing room, and then I saw on the door my name in gold letters: David Fisher. That's my real name. Dudu is a name that was given to me by my grandmother and that I've used ever since, but the people at Les Miz said, 'There's no way we're going to put doo-doo on Broadway.' I didn't even know what they meant at the time; they had to explain it to me! That company was so great. It really was like joining a family."