Shiri Maimon takes New York

NEW YORK –  It’s not every day that an Israeli performs in a starring role on Broadway, so the Israeli consulate pulled out all the stops for favorite daughter Shiri Maimon.

The popular singer and judge on the X-Factor Israel may not be making her Big Apple debut in the Tony Award-winning musical Chicago until September 21, but she was introduced to New York last week at a gala media event hosted by the Consulate at trendy eatery Sardis.

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“I’ve gotten to know Shiri personally and I discovered that she’s not only an amazing singer and a wonderful performer, but a lovely human being also. She is also an incredible ambassador of the state of Israel,” Dani Dayan, the Consul General of Israel in New York,  told reporters at the gathering. “I’m looking forward to the first day that you perform as Roxie in Chicago on Broadway— I will be right there watching,” he said to Maimon.

Scheduled to stay with the production through October 5, the 37-year-old Maimon will take on the role of Roxie Hart, a housewife by day and jazz singer by night, facing death row for the murder of her paramour, after he threatens to leave her. Desperate to avoid conviction and trying to trick the public, she hires Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her vengeful crime into a series of sensational headlines.

“She’s perfect for me. She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s sexy, she’s got a dream to be acknowledged and to have a meaningful life. We both have big dreams,” Maimon said of the character inspired by the real-life 1924 murder trials of Beulah Annan. “Of course, the difference is that she’s a murderer and I’m not.”

Just like Roxie Hart, Maimon grew up with dreams of being on stage. Born in Haifa, she rose to fame in 2003 as a runner up in Kokhav Nolad.  While starring in Evita at Habima in Tel Aviv recently , she was spotted by a Chicago producer, who invited her to audition in New York and meet Barry Weissler, a director and producer of the second longest-running show in Broadway history. Weissler, who has been with the production since it was first presented in 1996, said he knew immediately that Maimon was ideal to play the part of Roxie Hart. “We’re always searching the world for the next Roxie. Shiri is a wonderful singer, brilliant dancer and her spitfire personality fits perfectly for the role of Roxie,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

Maimon will follow in the footsteps of just a few other Israelis who have made it to Broadway; including Dudu Fisher as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Chaim Topol in Fiddler on the Roof and most recently Sasson Gabai in The Band’s Visit.

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The actress acknowledged that being an Israeli on Broadway could come with some political push-back. “It hasn’t happened yet, but I do expect it,” she told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s not going to impact me at all though. I’m an artist and I’m here to do my work.”

Another challenge Maimon addressed is the language barrier, despite her seemingly flawless English. “I’m just afraid of pronouncing certain words. I’m working on it,” she said, adding that the cast has been helpful and understanding. There’s also been a bit of a culture shock. “The mentality [on Broadway] is so different than in Israel. It’s too early to say which I prefer, but all I can say is it’s very different.”

Staying loyal to her Israeli fans, Maimon will continue the production in Israel, which will be running March 7-11. She said the show in Tel Aviv will remain exactly the same as it was on Broadway, including staying in English.

And what’s next for Maimon after New York and Israeli fans become acquainted with Roxie Hart? “There’s a lot coming up, but I don’t even want to think about it,” she said with a laugh. “I just want to have fun while I’m here. I’m really honored to be on this stage.”

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