Allan Sherman’s parody songs drive ‘Hello Muddah’ at Stage Door Theatre

06/05/2014 2:02 PM

09/11/2014 1:47 PM

The late Allan Sherman specialized in song parodies, and even his biggest hit single — 1963’s Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah — borrowed its tune from a segment of Amilcare Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours.

Douglas Bernstein and Rob Krausz built an entire revue (also titled Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah) around Sherman’s tunes, and the show had a tryout run that ended early at Miami Beach’s Colony Theater in 1991. Now, Hello Muddah is back, this time at the Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs.

What needs to be said first is that director Dan Kelley and five talented singer-actors — James Park as Barry Bockman, Eva Marie Mastrangelo as Sarah Jackman, and Ryan Halsaver, Sarah Sirota and Shane R. Tanner in multiple roles — give the show as decent a production as it’s likely to get.

What needs to be said second is that unless parody songs about a nice Jewish guy’s journey from birth to old age leave you convulsed with laughter, Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah may not be for you.

Even as a baby, protagonist Barry Bockman establishes a connection with pretty Sarah Jackman (here pronounced “Jockman”), inquiring after her well-being in a song set to the tune of Frère Jacques. As a kid, he heads to Camp Grenada, where a dreamy guy named Myer (Tanner) thrills the girls, and Barry writes his famous miserable letter home.

After college, he and Sarah tie the knot in a flashy wedding crashed by his annoying Uncle Phil (Tanner again), then Sarah’s folks sing an ode to themselves titled Harvey and Sheila (to the tune of Hava Nagila).

Aging and more parodies follow in the second act: the birth of son Robbie, life in surburban New Rochelle, angst as the worried parents of teens, then old age on Miami Beach. Tanner gets another strong solo as he croons Shine On, Harvey Bloom (to the tune of Shine On, Harvest Moon). As the Bockmans’ neighbor, Halsaver sings the funny Grow, Mrs. Goldfarb (the melody is from Glow Worm) as a musical ode to his wife’s insatiable appetite. There are lots of dumb numbers too, including Down the Drain (with original music by Albert Hague) and The Ballad of Harry Lewis (think Battle Hymn of the Republic).

Under David Nagy’s musical direction, the performers blend beautifully and shine on their solos. Colleen O’Connell’s clever costumes are of a piece with the tone of the show, deliberately amusing and sometimes over-the-top tacky (on purpose).

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah tells its musical ages-of-man story in a way that is mildly entertaining, at times lyrically dated (some references won’t mean much unless you remember Sherman’s work in the ’60s) and most resonant with theatergoers whose life experiences have mirrored Barry Bockman’s. Many in the Stage Door audience fit that bill, so for them Hello Muddah spells a good night (or afternoon) at the theater.

About Christine Dolen

Christine Dolen

@ChristineDolen

Christine Dolen has been the Herald's theater critic since 1979. She has served as a Pulitzer Prize drama juror and has won first place in arts writing in the Missouri Lifestyles Journalism Awards.

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