Once There Was a Melody



Based on the Israeli smash hit musical "Ish Hasid Haya" by Dan Almagor
Translated to Yiddish by Shimshon Dunsky

This staged reading is presented in Yiddish with English  and French supertitles with songs in both Yiddish and Hebrew

Director  Luciana Burcheri 
Music Director  Ely Bonder
Choreographer  Paula Wolfman Frank

Costume Designer  Lily Blander
Projection Designer  Luciana Burcheri
Head Technician and Head of Lighting  Michael Sinnott
Head of Sound  Peter Balov
Senior Props  Chloé Alain-Gendreau

Once There Was a Melody is a montage of songs and stories exploring the heights ordinary people can reach on their spiritual journeys. Their search is brought to life through the intertwined music and tales of humble people who show that you don't need to be a great scholar to earn your place in the world to come. If your intent is pure and you act with all your heart, all you need is to keep a promise or bake some bread or sing a song.

This is presented in honour of Israel's 70th birthday.


"In times of trouble, the Ba'al Shem Tov (The Master of the Holy Name) would go to the woods to commune with God. He would then light a fire, say a special prayer and sing a song. Successive generations of his followers forgot the place in the woods, did not know how to light the fire, and could not recall the special prayer - but the melody lived on."


Salomé Assor, Heather Batchelor, Nate Blander, Danielle Buch, Jonathan Eidelman, Joel Fink, Abe Fuks, Fishel Goldig, Edit Kuper, Jodi Lackman, Betty Kis-Marer, David Peterman, Mikey Samra, Sivan Slapak


Band Leader and Accordion  Ely Bonder 
Violin  David Peterman 
Guitar  Aron Gonshor 
Mandolin  Abe Fuks 
Flute  Chava Lerner

About the production 

Once There Was a Melody is a modern interpretation of Chassidic tales, well-known songs and heartfelt "nigunim" (wordless melodies), presented as a staged reading. At times sweet, at times funny, and at times strong, Once There Was a Melody has the power to stir emotion, lift spirits, and fill us with joy. This staged reading is presented in Yiddish with English supertitles with songs in both Yiddish and Hebrew.

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre first presented a Yiddish translation of this musical in 1971, and it quickly became a favourite. It was remounted several times in the 1970s and toured throughout Canada and the USA. The sublime music and songs have been beloved treasures for several generations of DWYT members - and now it's a new generation's turn to experience this powerful production.

About the play and the playwright

The Hebrew musical Ish Hasid Haya was first presented in Israel in 1968. The production enjoyed unprecedented success, eventually winning the Israeli Ministry of Culture's prize for best play. It is said that over one third of Israelis have seen the play. An English production opened on Broadway in 1971 and ran for over four months. More recently, a new adaptation co-produced by the Haifa Theatre and the Habima Theatre played to great acclaim in 2012.

Born in 1935, Dan Almagor is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, poet, author, professor, and producer. He is one of Israel's most celebrated and beloved cultural icons and is delighted that his play is being performed by the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre again. He has brought hundreds of plays to the Israeli stage, many in his own Hebrew translations of classics like Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors to modern favourites like Guys and Dolls.

About Chassidism

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov was the founder of the Chassidic movement in the 18th century. A great scholar and mystic, he and his followers created a way of Jewish life where anyone could achieve a close relationship to God through everyday acts of love and joy, and song and dance.





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