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Back in time A night of laughs, especially for the over-40 set

If Allan Sherman's name doesn't ring a bell, think of him as an old-school "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Yankovic transformed "My Sharona" into "My Bologna." Sherman, who died in 1973, put his Yiddish-tinged stamp on more classic melodies, from Angel G. Villoldo's "Kiss of Fire" ("Kiss of Myer") to George Gershwin's "Our Love is Here to Stay" ("Your Mother's Here to Stay").

Alas, for reasons obvious to anyone who has delved into the concrete slab of his catalog, Sherman's fame was short-lived. But thanks to the work of Douglas Bernstein and Rob Krausz, his words live on in the high-spirited and unrepentantly hokey musical revue "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh: The Allan Sherman Musical!" A production of the show by the Jewish Repertory Theatre opened Thursday night at the Road Less Traveled Theatre.

The revue arranges a selection of Sherman's work, based on classical pieces and tunes from Broadway shows, into a rough sort of narrative. It focuses on rhyming protagonists Barry Bockman and Sarah Jackman, who are born, go to school, fall in love, get married and grow old in the span of an hour and a half. The landmark occasions in their lives are punctuated by Sherman's songs, which range from clever ("One Hippopotami") to culturally inept ("Mexican Hat Dance") to downright schlocky ("Eat, Mrs. Goldberg").

It has to be understood, however, that this is a show out of another time -- a time when jokes about crafty mothers-in-law and sales at Bergdorf Goodman could be told entirely without irony and played for genuine laughs. You might have thought that endearingly naive period of comedic history gracefully evaporated back when Henny Youngman retired from the stage, but the creators of this 1993 show have dragged it screaming into the present.

That means the evening will go down easier for much of the over-40 set. Anyone raised in the age of irony or post-irony (that's you, in the Urban Outfitters T-shirt) will have a tougher time swallowing this particularly antiquated night at the theater. But once you do, it's pretty much guaranteed your funny bone will be tickled one way or the other.

That's due in no small part to a very endearing cast, especially Tim Newell as a variety of characters (particularly a drunk uncle who gives the performance of the evening) and Lorain O'Donnell as a variety of kvetching old women and others. David Butler is affable as Barry, as is Wendy Hall as Sarah.

Ron Schwartz's set, an appropriate evocation of an Ed Sullivan-like variety show, works well. Tom Dooney's keeps things flowing nicely. And Theresa Quinn ("queen of the kosher keyboard") provides excellent musical accompaniment and a very funny performance to boot.

e-mail: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

***

WHAT: "Hello Muddah! Hello, Fadduh!"

2 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

WHEN: Opened Thursday night and runs through March 22

WHERE: Presented by the Jewish Repertory Theatre of Western New York in Road Less Traveled Theatre, Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre, 639 Main St.

INFO: 688-4114, Ext. 391, or jewishrepertorytheatre.com

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