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Kazablan: From Protest Play to Mainstream Musical

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Amphitheater


Kazablan, the most successful Israeli musical of all times, began its storied career in 1954 as a grim whodunit drama. The (non-musical) production, presented at the young Cameri Theatre, offered a strong condemnation of the then negative stereotype of Moroccan males as hot-tempered and criminally disposed. The play ended on a desperate note with Kazablan left alone on stage. A solitary misfit in the new state he had helped create as a fearless fighter in the War of Independence.
In 1966, the play was musicalized and re-conceptualized. It was a phenomenal success, running for more than 600 performances. Kazablan was filmed in 1973, and in 2012 proved a hit when revived by the Cameri Theatre. It has become part of the Israeli canon and there is little doubt it will be revived again for future generations.
My presentation will focus of the fundamental differences between the original play and its 1960s version. They reveal a major shift in agenda: from angry protest against prejudice and stereotyping of the original to the promotion of inclusion, Jewish solidarity, and the fabrication of nostalgia of the 1966 adaptation. The new Kazablan, no longer an outcast, gets the (Ashkenazi) girl, and is unanimously hailed as champion and hero. I will demonstrate how these changes reflect the changing values and ideals of the mainstream of Israeli society and were instrumental in making the Kazablan story beloved by both Ashkenazi and Mizrahi spectators.