“Shlemiel the First is a delightfully entertaining production. Theater J has gathered a marvelous cast of actors and musicians to make this show a fun experience for young and old alike. Make it a treat for your family for the holiday season – See it!”
– Bob Davis, WGMS
But wait, there’s more! From Brad Hathaway at Potomac Stages
“In 2006 Nick Olcott directed a staged concert version of this rollicking klezmer musical adapted by Robert Brusten from a story from I. B. Singer’s Stories for Children with Donna Migliaccio, Amy McWilliams, Thomas Howley and Dan Manning heading a marvelous small cast. (Click here to read the review of that concert version.) Now the musical gets a full staging and the leads are back. It remains a great deal of fun. McWilliams’ is superb and Migliaccio is no slouch, either. The music remains infectious and there is a continuous stream of whimsy, such as the such as a cure for a rich man’s mortality … Since no rich man ever lived in the town of Chelm, none ever died there. So a rich man can avoid death by living in Chelm! It is illogical logic like that which animates the entire story. (click here to read the full review)
And then, of course, there’s Peter Marks, who lets us know he thinks the “the “oys” and “gevalts” and “meshugas”” add up to “a Jewish version of Hee-Haw.”You know what? We’ll take it. Better, we’ll run on it. “Jewish Hee Haw.” I’d spend a few precious shekels this new year season for a little idiot’s frivolity. I’ve just turned the corner on this blue mood. You know, all yesterday I was a bit hang-dog because I knew this Marksian “feh” was on its way. Now vindicated, I recall some of the really good talks I had at the opening night reception. Like this one with our theater’s wonderful friends, Dr. Al Munzer and Joel Wind. We were talking about the usefulness of the Chelm stories; what they say about our tradition of being able to laugh at ourselves.
One forgets how liberating it can be to puncture the hot air balloon of our own arrogance. A community coming together to poke fun at its own pretensions; that seems like a proposition likely to raise some hackles in uptight quarters. But how necessary! Scour the web for Chelm Stories (like this one “The Shlemiel as Metaphor: Studies in Yiddish and American Jewish Fiction“) and see what a developed tradition there is in casting the Jew as lazy bones, cuckold, luftmensch (or literally, “a man of air”), miskeit (a poor, pathetic one) and we see a portrait of humbled, lower-middle class community of real characters; not a WASPY aspirant in the bunch. They are what they are — Jewish noodniks and balabustas — which is to say pests and ball-breakers; battle-axes and hen-peckers and geeks and fools and loafers and prigs — and well, what’s not to like in this collection of misfits, which is where we come from? Perhaps our production wants to make this even more clear: We grew up on this diet. These stories remain our stories. This is OUR Town. There is joy in telling a tale of human foible. And our Chelm is full of them.
I get this in our production. I think that not only is the joy contagious; so too is the meaning and the moral. Let’s don’t take ourselves too seriously. Let’s don’t take our art too seriously either. How’s that for a provocative comment? Said squarely at the self! Let’s make this show as tight and sharp as it can be but let’s let its impact be one of carefree abandonment of uptight pretension.
Reviews, shmeviews… We take ’em when they’re good. We put our boots on ’em when they tell us we’re doing Hee Haw. All things have their uses.
We’re sold out on Sunday (or just about) and looking forward to a great run. Can anyone say “Disputation, Mr. Marks?” We shall see.