For kids celebrating Christmas, there are plenty of well-known holiday icons. Santa Claus, Rudolph, Grinch pop up repeatedly on television, in cinemas, and on stage. Gentile kids don’t want for fantasy figures to get into the holiday spirit. But what about the Jewish kids? Other than Adam Sandler’s “Hannukah Song” or Ross’ Hannukah Armadillo, I wasn’t aware of any animated Hannukah heroes.
The National Pastime Theater presents HANNUKATZ THE MUSICAL. Josh and Emily hate Hannukah. Their parents are kvetched. The chutzpa of this younger generation not embracing their heritage. Oy vey! What do they do? Sounds like a job for Hannukatz! A 6’7 psychedelic cat arrives to save the day… the holiday. He talks. He sings. He plays the guitar. Hannukatz self describes himself as ‘a catnippy, kinda trippy, chocolate chippy old hippie.‘ He’s ready to rock Josh and Emily into the holiday spirit. HANNUKATZ THE MUSICAL is a Hebrew-licious potch-in-tuchas.
My first impression was this is like Jesus Camp without Jesus or camp. The energy is high. The focus is religion. The vibe is fun! Terry Abrahamson converted his children’s book “Hannukatz Saves Hannukah” into a family musical. A Grammy-winner, Abrahamson collaborates with Michael Carlson to create Hannukarols. The upbeat alternative tunes to traditional Christmas schmaltz makes Bing Crosby sound like a schlemiel. The lively show engages the audience to participate. There is a shtick where three guests go on stage. The amusing ambiance is community-focused fellowship. It’s like staying after synagogue to kibbitz over a knish and latke.
Under the direction of Brian LeTraunik, the exuberant cast never stops grooving. Joshua Razavi (Hannukatz) leads the hi-jinx in his colorful cat suit. Razavi razzle dazzles in his unconventional look and sound. Cat-so-lutely! I was particularly impressed by Steve Love (Josh) playing an insolent kid. Love is a big bright bundle of hilarious. Even when slightly heckled by the man in front of me, Love never drops his mischievous grin and cheeky retort. Molly Kral (Syl) has a beautiful voice. Among the musical melodious mayhem, Kral stands out with her perfect pitch.
As a Gentile woman, I found HANNUKATZ THE MUSICAL to be a delightful Hebrew lesson. The program even lists words so you too can ‘Talk Like A Jew.’ After seeing “Fiddler on the Roof” a couple weeks ago, it was nice to experience the jocular side of God’s Chosen People. For Jewish families, this is a holiday tradition waiting to happen. It finally gives Jewish kids an icon to get behind. In a battle between a gigantic, energetic cat verses an overweight old guy, a disabled reindeer and a creature with a heart condition, the victor seems obvious!
Running Time: Seventy minutes with no intermission.
At National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway
Book and lyrics by Terry Abrahamson
Music by Michael Carlson
Music direction by Robert Ayres
Directed by Brian LeTraunik
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm
Thru December 31st
Buy Tickets at http://www.npt2.com