Cabaret with a Nazi backdrop
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Cabaret with a Nazi backdrop

AFTER Alexis Fishman made her break in the musical Dusty in Adelaide in 2006, she has been on a journey that’s taken her to stages across Australia, New York and even Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now the talented actor-singer has come full circle, returning to Adelaide last month to launch her new show Der Gelbe Stern (The Yellow Star) at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Der Gelbe Stern, which will also feature in the Melbourne Cabaret Festival later this month before a short Sydney season in August, tells the story of Jewish cabaret singer Erika Stern who, sporting a yellow star, is performing her last show in Berlin in 1933.

Fishman, a Moriah College graduate, conceived and co-created the show with writer James Millar.

“I sourced all the music – the majority of it is European music from the 1920s,” Fishman explains.

“Millar and I then sat down nutted out what we were going for. He then went away and fleshed out a script and since then we’ve been back and forth with drafts and tweaking it.”

In Der Gelbe Stern, Fishman’s character Stern is the darling of the Weimar cabaret scene in the decadent Berlin of the early 1930s and her sassy, provocative show embodies all the excesses of the era – until the rise of Nazism.

It is the first time Fishman has performed her own work, something she says is “really exciting and daunting at the same time”.

“I was not really expecting, or perhaps not so early in my career, to be doing something that was my own,” she says.

“I certainly feel more invested, but also more excited about it, because it feels the most like my own artistic expression than obviously anything ever has before.”

As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, Fishman says she wanted to find a way to continue to tell the story of the Shoah knowing that fewer survivors are left.

“I was really keen to tell the story of someone that was as close to me as possible, so that there was no way that I could distance myself from this person’s life or this person’s story,” she says.

Performing the show in three Australian cities has given Fishman, who is now based in New York, a welcome opportunity to spend time with family and friends in Australia.

“It’s always a pleasure to come back and be able to work on something while I’m here and also pick my nieces up from school, and all that sort of stuff too,” she says.

“Last time I flew in, I flew in on a gorgeous April day and I thought to myself ‘God, I’m really living between the world’s two best cities’. Everything New York doesn’t have, Sydney does have and everything Sydney lacks, New York, of course, has. I really do get the best of both worlds.”

Fishman will head back to the Big Apple in August after completing the Sydney run of Der Gelbe Stern.

“I’ve just got my green card, so finally I’m able to do all the work I want to do over there,” she says.

“Probably the thing I love best about New York is it’s just so Jewish.

“Even the non-Jews are running around saying ‘schlep’ and ‘schmaltz’. It’s just such a Jewish town and I really, really like that about it. I feel very much at home and where I belong with my people.”

Fishman lists spending two weeks with Australian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in October 2007 as “by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done”.

“It was life-changing, it really was,” she says.

“It was absolutely the most incredible experience for me, performing in that environment for such an appreciative audience.

“It was really such a great experience and I’d love to go back.”

Fishman, who graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2004, starred as Johnny O’Keefe’s wife Marianne in the 2008 revival of the hit musical Shout! and also appeared in the film version of the show that was released in early 2009.

Der Gelbe Stern is being staged at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival at South Melbourne Town Hall from July 20-21. Enquiries: www.melbournecabaret.com ; and the Reginald, Seymour Centre, Sydney, from August 3–13. Enquiries: www.thereginald.com.

REPORT: Gareth Narunsky

PHOTO: Alexis Fishman in her new show, Der Gelbe Stern (The Yellow Star).
Photo: Kurt Snedon

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