Audio: Shani - Forever Young - : -

NOT THE OSBOURNES Maxine Lipkin-Dorot, JERUSALEM POST City Lights Magazine, July 25


In the very beginning, there was one; then there were two. Later there were 3, then 4 and now there are 5. Sometimes, there are as many as 6.

These six are the Simcha Girls who, despite their name are, in fact, not all girls. They are Leonie Lachmish, her 2 daughters, and her special guests who are truly special because theyre Leonies two sons. Sometimes, even hubby, Haim, becomes a Simcha Girl too!

And although the name Girls in the title may not be 100% accurate, they do indeed bring simcha (joy) into the lives of their audiences from coast to coast.

To those of you have have not yet heard of them, let me introduce you to this Ashkelon-based family group who is carrying on a legacy of bringing music, joy and good cheer to thousands of people all over the country.

For years, Edinburgh-born Mildred Eprile-Sheldon appeared in Jewish venues throughout England and Scotland singing Yiddish and Hebrew together with Olde Tyme Music Hall songs. When her daughter, Leonie, was 12 years old, Mildred worked out a program that included Leonie, thereby giving birth again - to the singing team Mildred named The Simcha Duo. Mother and daughter were an immediate local hit and it was only a matter of time before the Simcha Duo went on the road after school hours, performing for both Jewish and inter-faith groups and at fund-raising events for Israel, bringing good will and evenings of musical joy all over England. Mildred decided to take the show even further on the road after she and her husband, Eliot, made aliya in 1986, joining Leonie and Haim and their 1.8 children who were already in Ashkelon. The Simcha Duo now appeared all over Israel, the duo becoming a three-o when Leonies daughter, Shani, joined the troupe.

In 1998, Mildred passed away. A year later, knowing that her mom would want the show to go on, The Simcha Duo became the Simcha Girls and hit the road again, with changes made to keep the program fresh and to meet the times and needs of their audiences.

The group members have changed too. The 1.8 kids have become 4, each Lachmish child having been gifted with the Simcha gene.

Leonie herself is a one-woman show: she is the Simcha Girls organizer, musical director, producer and stage director/manager, costume designer and transport manager carrying the troupe to performances in front of a live audience or on television. But that aint all, folks. Leonie also teaches English in Ashkelon College and performs with an educational theater troupe. She and both daughters also appear in a play writted especially for ultra Orthodox female audiences and one for religious children. Leonie and son David recently played the leads in the national touring company of Puss in Boots, a musical for children that ran for six months and closed (conveniently) at the same time that David went into the army where he is currently serving in an elite battle unit.

The first of Leonies offspring to join the Simcha Girls on a regular basis was Shani. Her entry into show business was sudden. It came in 1993 when Mildred lost her voice the morning of a double performance and couldnt sing.; Leonie turned to then 7 year old Shani and said, Theyre expecting a mother and a daughter. Im your mother, youre my daughter so its you and me, kid.
The duo grew into a trio when 4-year-old Yahala joined a year later. Yahala is a veteran performer, having been a finalist in the prestigious talent contest, Bravo! and a regular on the television series, Barney.

The first Simcha Boy to become a Simcha Girl is the baby of the family, 10 year old Gilad, who brings the house down whenever he appears. Haim, a math teacher and accomplished chazzan, has caught the Simcha Girls bug too, appearing in programs where the audience is especially fond of Sephardic melodies.

Rehearsals and show preparation are done between homework, studying for tests and doing things kids do. Backstage, you can frequently catch the kids doing
homework or studying for exams.

All are excellent students and still kids: more than once during a car ride to a performance, theyll fight with each other as siblings do, but backstage, as the curtain is about to go up, they all turn to each other with a smile as Mama cries, Showtime! and then the kids are as sweet and loving as can be, at least until the drive back to Ashkelon when they can pick up the argument where they left off.
The Simcha Girls have performed all over the country and have left their audiences with a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts. This sounds kitschy but its true; Ive been to several performances and the audiences just adore them. This is not Ozzie Osbourne and family. This is a clean-cut, handsome, talented, down-to-earth family who are totallly enjoying themselves and what theyre doing, and doing it in perfect harmony. Leonie and family are into the third generation of carrying on the musical tradition started by her mother over 30 years ago. And you can be sure that Mildred is smiling from above, humming along and tapping her toes to the music.

(The Simcha Girls: 050-658-7705)