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Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!


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HELLO MUDDAH, HELLO FADDUH!, Apollo Theater. Allan Sherman was the singer-songwriter Weird Al Yankovic only thinks he is. Witty, biting, hilarious, Sherman was able to take any tune and totally subvert it, creating wild new meanings just by changing a few words around. In his inspired hands, "Frere Jacques" became a meditation on Jewish-American accents: it ran "Sarah Jackman, how's by you?" And "Havah Nagilah" became a chronicle of upwardly mobile life circa 1963. When Sherman died in 1973 at the age of 49, we lost a jester of the first order.

Now Douglas Bernstein and Rob Krausz have assembled some two dozen of Sherman's best songs and worked like the devil to create a story around them: they take one rather bland suburban Jewish boy from birth and bris to Miami and the grim reaper. It's pretty flimsy, and the jokes are mostly ancient, older than the Catskills. (And most of them are performed in the baggy-pants, over-the-top style that killed vaudeville.)

Luckily Sherman's songs are strong enough to survive this treatment. And Krausz's energetic cast--all of them adept singers, dancers, and comedians--are clearly having a blast. I left the show unable to get that brilliant, crazy man's lyrics out of my head. Does anyone know where I can find a good used copy of My Son, the Folksinger? --Jack Helbig

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