‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!’
Staged Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 17 by the Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company at the Aaron DeRoy Theatre on the campus of the Jewish Community Center, 6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield. Tickets: $29-$39. For information: (248) 788-2900 or http://www.jettheatre.org.
Back in the 1960s, audiences laughed hysterically every time Allan Sherman walked on to the stage of “The Ed Sullivan Show” and sang one of his Jewish-themed song parodies. Who knew that 40 years later we’d STILL be laughing at them – thanks to the Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company’s very entertaining production of “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!” that opened this past weekend in West Bloomfield.
Sherman, a brilliant satirist, forged a brief, but magnificent career by adapting familiar folk tunes into a charming and witty celebration of Jewish culture. Although he and his humor faded as the sixties wore on it, Sherman’s delightful wordplay and carefully constructed imagery struck a chord with Jew and Gentile alike – so much so, that many of us old folk consider his ditties to be a cherished part of our American culture.
So it wasn’t a big surprise that the season opener this past Saturday night was packed with a crowd that knew every word of Sherman’s signature tune – and wasn’t afraid to sing them!
The fast-paced musical revue, conceived and written by Douglas Bernstein and Rob Krausz, uses two dozen of Sherman’s popular parodies to tell the story of Barry Bockman and Sarah Jackman who meet as infants, eventually marry and finally retire to Florida. In-between they go to camp, move to suburbia and have a family. We meet her parents, his boss and various other friends and family members. And, oh yes: We giggle, we chuckle and we guffaw. A lot.
Although the tunes are now somewhat dated – and tight-asses might be offended by their political incorrectness – it’s amazing how Sherman’s unrelated works fit so well together to tell a cohesive tale. (Sure, the playwrights stretch things here and there, but who cares? This ain’t Shakespeare!)
However, it’s director Kayla Gordon’s gung-ho cast that sells this show.
The excellent voices of Eric Gutman (Barry) and Catherine Lutz (Sarah) blend beautifully, and it’s fun to watch them grow from infants (“Sarah Jackman”) to gawky college kids (“One Hippopotami”), and from new suburbanites (“Here’s to the Crabgrass”) to a longtime married couple (“Like Yours”).
The revue’s other three actors play multiple characters. Matthew Stewart and Leah Smith particularly stand out as Sarah’s parents, Harvey and Sheila. (Oy! They’re so convincing!) And Fred Buchalter’s obnoxious Uncle Phil is a welcome treat.
However, none of their characters would be complete without Eli Magid’s dazzlingly colorful costumes.