Nick Jonas Will Play a Jewish Character in ‘The Last Five Years’ on Broadway… Oy Vey

Brace yourself to hear the Jonas brother say the word “shiksa” a BUNCH of times.

Brace yourself, pals. Nick Jonas is going to play a Jewish man on Broadway.

On Sunday, ahead of the Tony Awards, it was announced that Jason Robert Brown’s iconic and somewhat autobiographical musical “The Last Five Years” would be making its Broadway debut in spring 2025. It was also announced that Nick Jonas would play the role of the young, successful and (spoiler alert) cheating writer Jamie Wellerstein opposite Adrienne Warren as struggling actress and dutiful wife Cathy Hiatt. The musical tells Jamie and Cathy’s love story in reverse, beginning with their divorce and ending after one of their first dates. “I have always believed that when the time was right, ‘The Last Five Years’ would make its way to Broadway. To have Nick and Adrienne taking on these roles is a composer’s dream come true,” Brown said in a statement.

While “The Last Five Years” might not be as Jewish as Jason Robert Brown’s other musical “Parade,” which won the Tony for best revival of a musical last year, Jamie’s Jewishness is still a huge part of the show. (Jamie is lowkey meant to represent Brown himself.) The second song of the musical is a number called “Shiska Goddess,” in which Jamie lists all the Jewish women he’s ever dated and delights in the fact that Cathy is not Jewish. “If you came from Spain or Japan or the back of a van, just as along as you’re not from Hebrew school,” he declares in a verse.

Later on in the musical, Jamie sings the Yiddishkeit “The Schmuel Song,” a story he’s written about an old tailor living in the Pale of Settlement who is able to reverse time and marry the girl of his dreams.

“The Last Five Years” first debuted in Chicago in 2001, went Off-Broadway in 2002 and has seen numerous productions, revivals and even a movie. In that time, Jamie’s character has only ever been played by a Jewish actor twice: Adam Kantor took on the role in the 2013 Off-Broadway revival and handed it off to Jeremy Jordan in the 2014 film. However, Nick Jonas playing Jamie for the long-awaited Broadway run of the show seems to be the first time there has been any pushback to a non-Jewish actor taking the role. After the announcement, many in the theater community went online to discuss — and criticize — Jonas’s stunt casting.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Over the last five years, discourse over who can play Jews and tell Jewish stories has taken center stage in the entertainment industry. Particularly notable instances of this include the cast of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” including a shockingly low number of Jews and Bradley Cooper donning a fake shnoz to play Leonard Bernstein in “Maestro.”

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Nick Jonas is just so… not Jewish. At least Norbert Leo Butz, who originated the role, has an Ashkenazi-sounding name. Nick Jonas and his boyband brothers famously wore purity rings in the mid-2000s, for Hashem’s sake! The idea of Nick Jonas calling himself a Hebrew slave or saying the word “shabbos” in “Shiksa Goddess” with any authenticity is a little laughable. (Though some online seem to agree with this sentiment, not because he’s not Jewish, but because they think he’s not a good actor.)

Here are some of my favorite responses to the news that Nick Jonas will be playing Jamie Wellerstein on Broadway:

1. We’re going to go out onto a limb-ovich here and say it’s either going to be really good or really bad.

2. Brace yourself to hear Nick Jonas say the word “shiksa” a BUNCH of times.

3. With Joe and Kevin as Motel and and Perchik.

4. He’s method acting… kinda.

5. Cathy forever!!

6. Asking the real questions!!

7. OK, sick burn.

8. And this unrelated Nick Jonas tweet just for fun!

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

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