Monday, January 28, 2013

theatre review JACKIE HOFFMAN'S A CHANUKAH CAROL, Off Broadway, December 21

Jackie Hoffman might just be the funniest person currently working in the New York Theatre.  In addition to her hilarious supporting turns in the original Broadway casts of Hairspray, Xanadu and The Addams Family, Jackie has continually crafted solo comedic shows that she has performed in various venues.  Last year her one woman take off of A Christmas Carol with the simple title of Jackie Hoffman's A Chanukah Carol,  was such a hit that she brought it back for an additional series of performances.  With the tag line "All New (unless you saw it last year)" you get an idea of Jackie's type of humor.

The hour long show, co-written and directed by Michael Schiralli, starts with Jackie doing her show at Beth Temple Shalom in Queens to a very unappreciative and hostile audience.  The cranky and kvetching Hoffman assaults the audience, leaves the stage and decides to calm her nerves with some pills and a little Manischewitz wine.  Of course that toxic combination finds Jackie in a delusional state where she is visited by the infamous three Carol ghosts of past, present and future.  Can what the ghosts show Jackie help turn her from her self depreciating and self loathing ways to see how lucky she has it and see the true spirit of Chanukah?  Well with Hoffman's acid tongued humor all bets are off if she really will see the error of her ways or stay the cranky comic we all love.

With no props or sets and just two chairs, Hoffman conjures up not only various members of her family, especially memorable in several dinner scenes where there is an overabundance of food, Jewish stars Molly Picon and a spot-on imitation of an always hungry Shelly Winters as two of the ghosts but also even does a pretty good take on Patrick Stewart as the narrator of the entire show.  For those of you wondering why Stewart is included in Hoffman's crazy show, he did a very famous one man Christmas Carol on Broadway in the 90's to great acclaim, so of course it makes sense to include him. 

Jackie is so genuine in her approach to displaying what we have to believe are scenes somewhat based on her actual life that you easily identify with her and her experiences.  From being the self obsessed teen, willing to work on the Sabbath and the Jewish Holidays to become the famous person she longs be to the semi-famous comic hoping for success on Broadway, they are all traits we can identify with as we all yearn for our own chance of success even if achieving it comes at a cost.

Now, a one woman show can lose steam even at an hour, and Jackie does manage to include a few moments that don't land, including an ending that doesn't have as big of a finish as I'd hope for.  However, there are many that do.  The scene with her family where they are wondering what the exact difference between Diet Coke and Coke Zero is becomes almost as hilarious as the infamous "Who's On First" Abbott and Costello routine.  And how Jackie shoe horns in the character of Tiny Tim, reimagined as Tiny Kim, a Thai delivery boy from Pinkberry who gives Jackie a detailed analysis of her entire career was one of the many highlights of the show.

To see where Jackie is performing next check out her official website.

Jackie dons many wigs in this "review" of the show:

Jackie takes you behind the scenes of her show:

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