Dec ’09 Spotlight

Second City alumna Jackie Hoffman is back in Chicago appearing as “Grandmama” in the new musical The Addams Family (currently playing at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Randolph), but she’s also planned a special Chanukah treat for local fans. On Monday nights, Jackie will debut her new act Whining in the Windy City: Holiday Edition at the Royal George Cabaret on Halsted.

I met Jackie for coffee right before an Addams rehearsal on Nov 5 to learn more about the new show. “About Chicago, I was warned, ‘Well, Jewey stuff doesn’t fly here.’ And I heard that, but despite that, I’m just going to bring people into my world. I tell about my life and what happens to me and the things people say to me. After every show, people say to me: ‘Is that true? Is that true?’ It’s all true. I’m not that good a writer. It’s all true.”

“I was fired on a Carson Pirie Scott commercial because I was ‘too ethnic looking,’ meanwhile Rosie O’Donnell was cast as Golde in Fiddler on the Roof!  Broadway’s become all about the sellable name, so that’s really what it is, but that was just so absurd. But I got a lot of mileage out of it; I made it work for me. Chicago people love down-to-earth, and my act is as down-to-earth as it gets. The truth never fails!”

Performances of The Addams Family run through Sunday, Jan 10. For tickets, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com. Jackie’s four Royal George performances are scheduled for Nov 30, Dec 7, Dec 14, and Dec 21. For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com and enter “Jackie Hoffman” in the Search field. The Ford Theatre Box Office line is (800) 775-2000. The Royal George Box Office line is (312) 988-9000.

To see Jackie play “Calliope” (her acclaimed role in the Broadway hit Xanadu), visit www.youtube.com  and enter “xanadu evil woman” in the Search field.

Jackie also appears in Making Trouble screening at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies on Sunday, Dec 13. Making Trouble is a well-intentioned documentary produced by the Jewish Women’s Archive. Clips of funny ladies Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner, and Wendy Wasserstein are threaded together through a marathon meal at Katz’s Deli featuring Jackie and fellow comedians Judy Gold, Cory Kahaney, and Jessica Kirson, punctuated with comments from multiple scholars and other “talking heads.” An enjoyable film, but I left hungry—too many appetizers and side-dishes, but no main course. For tickets, visit www.spertus.edu or call (312) 322-1700.

More Performances

The Klezmatics (lead by Lisa Gutkin, Frank London, and Lorin Sklamberg) will be at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie on Saturday, Dec 19 to sing beloved songs from their 2006 CD Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah. No, famed Dust Bowl balladeer Woody Guthrie wasn’t Jewish, but when he married his second wife Marjorie, he become part of a Yiddishkeyt family.

In an interview with the Jewish Journal’s Tom Tugend in 2004, folksinger Arlo Guthrie said his Bubbe Aliza took to her new son-in-law right away: “Aliza Greenblatt was a poet and songwriter in her own right, and she immediately recognized Woody’s talent,” Guthrie said. “And with his typical thoroughness, Woody started reading every book he could find and took courses on Judaism at Brooklyn Community College.”

To order tickets, visit www.centreeast.org, or call the Box Office: (847) 673-6300.

CURTAIN CALL

 Maria Krupoves played to an overflow crowd at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center on Nov 1. Krupoves is an internationally acclaimed interpreter of the folksongs of Central and Eastern Europe, and her repertory of Yiddish songs includes some she herself recorded from Holocaust survivors. The program was sponsored by Chicago YIVO. To listen to music from her all-Yiddish CD Songs of the Vilna Ghetto, visit the Chicago YIVO Blog and enter “Krupoves” in the Search field: http://chicagoyivo.wordpress.com.

TZIVI’S DVD COLLECTION

Britain’s BBC television network showed a new miniseries version of The Diary of Anne Frank to great acclaim last January, and it’s now available here on DVD as a 100-minute feature film. This is the third screen adaptation of Anne’s Diary I’ve seen, and I’ve also seen several stage versions, but even as familiar as I am with the material, I was still deeply moved. Director Jon Jones keeps a tight focus on life inside the Amsterdam attic in which Anne and seven other Jews hid for two years (from July 1942 until August 1944). “The Secret Annex” starts out claustrophobic, but it becomes so familiar (and dare I say “cozy”), that the abrupt arrival of the German Security Police at the very end is a visceral shock.

Adapting Anne’s Diary presents a narrative dilemma: how to sympathetically depict people who have become already become caricatures in the popular imagination? For example, Anne is very hard on her mother as well as the middle aged dentist with whom she shared a tiny room, so both Edith Frank and Albert Dussel must be extremely well-cast and their dialogue must be crafted with great care. Played here by veteran character actors Tamsin Greig and Nicholas Farrell, we can see their humanity as individuals even as we empathize with Anne’s teenage frustrations. Lesley Sharp as Mrs. Van Dann and Felicity Jones as Anne’s sister Margot also do wonders in their supporting scenes, and through it all Ellie Kendrick shines as Anne. (Screenwriter Deborah Moggach received an Oscar nomination for her 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice staring Keira Knightley, and this screenplay succeeds in similar ways.)

The is available for purchase from its American distributor at www.WellGoUSA.com, or from online sites like Amazon and Borders.

*****

Jan Lisa Huttner (Tziviah Bat Yisroel v’ Hudah) is the managing editor of Films for Two: The Online Guide for Busy Couples (www.films42.com). Send comments and/or suggestions for future columns to: tzivi (at) msn (dot) com

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