Haifa Theatre announced the opening of their new season with Hatahana, an original musical, written by Daphna Engel and Shay Lahav. Directed by Shuki Vagner, the musical focuses on a group of soldiers who are training to work at the prestigious army radio station, a first step towards a successful career in radio or other journalistic media. Much to their dismay, when the lucky graduates of the course arrive at their new post, their realize that their role is limited to the most boring office work, offering neither interest, nor glory. The musical is set during a critical era in Israel’s recent history, the disengagement from Gaza, which involved the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005.
The soldiers come from diverse backgrounds, with different beliefs, customs, and politics. Working together despite their differences becomes even more of a challenge due to the charged political situation. The situation grows even more tense as the radio station is under threat of closure by the government – a situation familiar to Israeli audiences. The young soldiers are portrayed by a talented ensemble cast of actors, who performed a selection of songs from the musical at a press presentation which took place this morning in the rehearsal studio at the Israeli Opera.
Haifa Theatre actor Dafna Dekel joined the cast in recent weeks, taking the place of Miri Aloni, who is unfortunately unable to perform due to an illness. Dekel sang a song familiar to Israeli audiences, especially those of a certain age, The Ballad of Hedva and Shlomik. Written by Yehonatan Geffen and composed by Yair Rosenblum, the song was first performed by Miri Aloni in 1971. Under the musical direction of Tal Blecherovich, who adapted the songs together with Rami Osservaser, Hatahana will feature Israeli songs that will be well known to local audiences, such as Yam Harahamim by Kobi Aflalo, which Alon Ophir and Shimon Mimran sang in a moving duet, accompanied by a trio of dancers.
As a note to those less familiar with local culture, Israel has had an army radio station, Galei Zahal, known colloquially as Galatz, broadcasting news, cultural shows and music, since 1950. In 1993 they inaugurated Galgalatz, broadcasting traffic updates and music, which immediately became enormously popular. Generations of radio, print and television journalists got their start in these stations, as well as many other leading figures in Israeli culture and politics; and just about everyone else tunes in regularly. I expect that for those audience members who have grown up in Israel or have lived here for many years, Hatahana will evoke the feelings and memories of those times.