Israeli youth troupes will sing, dance in Walnut Creek

What do you get when you mix Bob Hope and "A Chorus Line" — topped off with a little of MTV's "Real World?"

In the absence of any definitive answer to that question, perhaps Israel's "Halehaka 2000" comes close enough.

Members of the Youth Theater of Holon will perform highlights from the musical production of the popular Israeli movie "Halehaka," which was first released 15 years ago. The selection of songs was chosen to reflect Israel's culture and history.

The troupe will be performing 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 21, in the Hofmann Theatre at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. The event is sponsored by the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay.

The theater ensemble will be preceded by the group Dor Sheni, composed of Israeli youths whose families immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia and North Africa.

Both the movie and the updated theatrical version of "Halehaka" deal with the internecine feuds of an army entertainment corps. They squabble about the usual things — love and loss — and who gets the most mike time.

"A lot of singers have gotten their start that way," said Riva Gambert, the director of education and culture for the Israel Center. "It's very similar to the USO here in America, except all of these kids, ranging in age from 16 to 21, are either in the army, or going to be in the army."

But the story line of the of the play will be given a new twist when the show comes to America, according to Varda Shoshan-Levy, director of the Steinberg Culture and Arts Center in Holon. The material mined by the play, she said, is tailor-made for American audiences.

"There can be quite a difference between Jewish identity in Israel, and Jewish identity in the United States," said Shoshan-Levy, "and kids really can speak to that.

"There's also the issue of mandatory service in the Israeli army," she continued. "Is it really good for the country, or is it a waste of time? I think that's a very valid question–and one that's not often talked about in this kind of arena.

"I think the piece, in addition to entertaining people, will really open a lot of doors."