Alf Fo­gel

BORN LON­DON, JULY 14, 1926. DIED LON­DON, OC­TO­BER 4, 2008, AGED 82.

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries -

GUAR­AN­TEED TO fill the house be­fore bring­ing it down, Alf Fo­gel wrote and starred in a se­ries of in­spired and orig­i­nal mu­si­cal parodies from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s. Ti­tles in­cluded Mine Fair Sadie (1960), East of the Pump (1962), Takeover (1964), The Teitle­baum File (1966) and Morry of Ara­bia (1968). They were put on in West End the­atres on Sun­days and the money raised al­ways went solely to char­ity.

Alf wrote the lines, lyrics and mu­sic, and played the lead. He was aided by a loyal and tal­ented band of fel­low-Jewish play­ers, who formed the long-run­ning Char­i­ties The­atre Group in 1959.

Step­ney-born Alf was the sec­ond youngest of seven chil­dren of Nathan and Malka Fo­gel, who came from a vil­lage in Poland. Nathan ar­rived in Eng­land in 1910, to be joined by his wife. They also brought up three other chil­dren from their vil­lage.

Alf’s ed­u­ca­tion in Stoke New­ing­ton, where he lived and later worked, was ended by the out­break of the Sec­ond World War. A month ear­lier he had been ad­dressed at his barmitzvah by Rabbi Dr Solomon Schon­feld at the Adath Yis­rael Burma Road shul.

Ea­ger for self-re­liance, he de­liv­ered pa­pers for WH Smith. With the £5 he saved up in his first three months he bought his first mu­si­cal in­stru­ment, a Ge­orge Formby banjo. At 14 he be­gan en­ter­tain­ing for fam­ily and friends. Dur­ing the blitz he and his brother, Les­lie, put on shows in air raid shelters.

Soon he was work­ing for his fa­ther’s cloth­ing fac­tory in Al­bion Road but af­ter it was bombed out, the fam­ily went into scrap metal. At 16, Alf was given al­most full re­spon­si­bil­ity when his fa­ther be­came ill and died three years later.

Some of the char­ac­ters he had to deal with were ex­tremely dodgy, if not out­right vil­lains. As nor­mal busi­ness re­sumed af­ter the war, he re­turned to the Al­bion Road fac­tory and even­tu­ally be­came a di­rec­tor of N Fo­gel and Sons, mak­ing chil­dren’s cloth­ing.

Join­ing St John’s Wood Jewish Youth Club, he played in its foot­ball team in 1951. The club started a weekly in-house cabaret and Alf took part in its first show, Sauce Chutz­pah, in 1954. It was so suc­cess­ful that they put on a ben­e­fit per­for­mance at the White­hall The­atre.

Alf de­vel­oped the con­cept and put on Old Time Chutz­pah at the For­tune The­atre in 1958, launch­ing his al­ter­na­tive ca­reer and a se­ries of char­ac­ters: Reuben Hood, Grob Roy, Sin­bad the Tai­lor and Cap­tain Lawnmower.

He then picked up his pen and wrote 14 songs and the en­tire book of Mine Fair Sadie, which ran for a suc­ces­sion of Sun­days at Wyn­d­ham’s The­atre be­fore trans­fer­ring to the Royalty, Kingsway.

In 1967, fol­low­ing Is­rael’s Six-Day War, he made a whirl­wind tour of mil­i­tary bases around Is­rael. The high­light of the tour was en­ter­tain­ing 500 Is­raeli sol­diers in King Hus­sein of Jor­dan’s palace in East Jerusalem.

Ben­e­fi­cia­ries of his shows in­cluded the fore­run­ners of both Jewish Care and World Jewish Re­lief, Ravenswood (now part of Nor­wood), Nor­wood it­self, the Lon­don Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal un­der Barts, Im­pe­rial Can­cer Re­search, Na­tional Heart Hospi­tal and, later, the Jewish As­so­ci­a­tion for the Men­tally Ill.

He ap­peared at fundrais­ers at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium, Vic­to­ria Palace and Prince of Wales. Al­though of­ten asked and some­times tempted to turn pro­fes­sional, he kept the day job. As he said af­ter his daugh­ter was born, her first words were: “I’ve got noth­ing to wear,” and he wanted to sup­ply her needs.

More re­cently he gath­ered his old troupe to­gether to make a CD, Sher­lock Hyams, to ben­e­fit Jewish Care in 2003, and The Strudel Prince in 2005.

He mar­ried Stephanie Michaels in 1969. He is sur­vived by her, his daugh­ter Sa­man­tha, son Robert, and two grand­chil­dren.


Alf Fo­gel: rais­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands for char­ity through his shows

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