Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!: 25th Anniversary Reunion Concert

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Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!
25th Anniversary Reunion Concert

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, July 24, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Stephen Berger, Mary Testa,
Jason Graae, Paul Kreppel,
Tovah Feldshuh
Photo: Stephen Sorokoff

Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager had it right when they wrote “Everything Old Is New Again.” It seemed like no time at all had passed since five hugely talented actors got together in late 1992 to celebrate the comedy genius of parody-maven Allan Sherman.

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In this abridged version of that Off-Broadway success, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!, the original players convened with esprit de corps intact. What ensued was much hilarity and great fun—so much so it was hard to know who was having more of it, audience or cast. Joy and jubilation was apparent from the opening number, “Goulash,” a take-off on “Hungarian Goulash” (Lou Busch/Allan Sherman, with new lyrics by Douglas Bernstein/Rob Krausz). From there it was a crackling express train ride through a wildly comic landscape of spoof and send-up.

Sherman’s parodies were written over the course of decades and were largely confined to public domain music, such as his big top-40 hit, the eponymous “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!” (“A Letter from Camp”), penned to Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” from La Gioconda. But, there was original music, too, and for this Sherman turned to Lou Busch, who helped showcase lyrics such as the transcendently timeless “One Hippopotami,” a brilliant, hilarious, pun-fest/love song.

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Beyond this, Busch also worked as an arranger and adapted many of the public domain melodies.  Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!: The Allan Sherman Musical  draws from this body of work, conceived and written by Bernstein and Krausz. Its connect-the-dots-book spoofs post-war suburban Jewish life and social rituals—a time when success meant vacationing at a mega-resort in the Catskills and eventual retirement to Florida, typified by “Shake Hands with Your Uncle Max,” performed by the cast, and Steven Berger’s comedic tour de force mash-up, “Phil’s Medley.” 

Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! is the cradle-to-grave story of Everyman, Barry Bockman, played by the magnetic Jason Graae. He was equally convincing as the child Barry (“Sarah Jackman ”/Sherman) as he was as the senior citizen Bockman, with an affecting, but still amusing, “Did I Ever Really Live?” (Albert Hague/Sherman). The very buoyant and versatile Mary Testa, as Barry’s childhood love and eventual wife, Sarah Jackman, had her shining moment in the humorously fraught “Crazy Downtown”(Sherman/Hatch). With shtik abounding, the gold medal easily goes to Tovah Feldshuh, playing Jackman mère  with priceless archetypal accent and demeanor. Her “Mexican Hat Dance” (Sherman/Busch) and, with Testa, “Won’t You Come Home, Disraeli” (Sherman/Cannon/Busch), would have cracked up any Mahjong circle. Paul Kreppel handled the supertitles (He Is Born, He Is Wed, He Reproduces, He Is Old, etc.) with appropriate Jewish weltschmerz, and also portrayed Jackman père, excelling in the hilarious “Grow, Mrs. Goldfarb” (Sherman/Lincke/Busch). Leaving ’em wanting more, much more, the cast went out on a medley sublime. From “Gimme Jack Cohen,” “God Bless You, Jerry Mendelbaum,” and “Catskill Ladies” (Sherman/Foster) to “Bye Bye Blumberg” (Sherman/Henderson), “Beautiful Teamsters” (Sherman/Foster), and “Don’t Buy the Liverwurst” (and others), Allan Sherman’s genius and laugh legacy had one more glorious, shining moment. Additional kudos go to musical director/pianist David Evans, director Paul Kreppel, and producer Scott Coulter, all of whom did a grand job of getting to the heart of the show and intelligently crafting its flow.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.