Ethnic Theater - Jewish
Presented by the New York Musical Theatre Festival And Happy Hannukkah Productions
At the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, Manhattan
"Maccabeat,” supposedly a modern-day rock version of Hanukah with a “Hebrew hottie” in the lead, is clearly forgettable, never living up to its promise as a Biblical spoof. Based on the Maccabean revolt against Greek rule, “Maccabeat” trivializes that moment in Jewish history.
It is all very well to turn a tribute to Israelite heroism into fun and games, but the attempt never works. The jokes are corny, the songs pedestrian, the production makeshift, and, above all, the lead character is woefully miscast. Mitch Dean as Judah is not a Hebrew hottie, but an unprepossessing actor, small of stature and voice.
Yet there are moments which redeem the cast’s earnest efforts. Michael Daly, as the ruler Antiochus, provides the unerring rollicking humor so missing in the rest of the show, and Kaitlin Stillwell and Rachel Frankenthal offer a show-stopping number with “Biblical Sense.” Howard Kaye, who plays Matisyahu, father of the clan, offers solos enhanced by a strong baritone. Finally, narrator Jonas Cohen’s solid stage presence carries the show along, and Margaret Anne Florence as the Greek enchantress Allura is most assuredly alluring.
But these several competent players cannot keep the ship afloat, and a memorable moment in Jewish history, deserving better treatment, falls by the way.
-- Irene Backalenick
Sept. 24, 2007