The MeshugaNutcracker is a Hanukkah musical: stories of Hanukkah set to the music of The Nutcracker. As I reassured some of the other people coming in, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy it: I'm not Jewish and I'd heard it in a "concert" performance at the late, lamented RetroDome just before it closed, so I knew part of what was coming. This time, however, the musical has a complete set and costumes.
As we took our seats, I took the best available-light photo I could of the stage set with my camera-phone. Chelm is, in Jewish humor, the town of fools, and the play is set in this town as the villagers put on a play of Hanukkah stories.
Before the play proper started, the characters came out and mingled in the audience, which gave us an opportunity to see the wonderful costumes. (We got another chance after the musical when we got to see them close up in the lobby. They are great outfits, with tremendous detail, and yet are sturdy enough for the performers to dance and move around in.) The warm-up was actually a bit of a pre-show vamp to deal with a technical problem (a malfunctioning microphone). I then turned my phone off like a good kid and we settled in.
Soon enough, the play was under way. Alas, it was way too loud for Lisa, and even I could tell it was somewhat over-amplified. For Lisa, it was torture, as we were in the middle of an aisle and she couldn't get out. She held her ears for the first act and couldn't sit in the main theatre for the second; she listened to it from the lobby where it was somewhat less loud. It turns out we weren't the only people who were having problem with the sound, and we learned later than the sound was under the control of the Heritage Theatre, not the Guggenheim Entertainment team producing the show, and that's a shame, because the play itself was great fun and the musical numbers entertaining — and perhaps somewhat educational, particularly to non-Jews like me who weren't really familiar with the ins and outs of Hanukkah.
The play consists of a series of vignettes, each a musical number about a particular Hanukkah-related story. While the overall tone is light-hearted, there are a couple of stories that have a darker turn as they focus on observations of Hanukkah in Nazi-occupied Europe and in a concentration camp. I heard at least one person complain at intermission about this. I think the stories are perfectly appropriate, because while the circumstances of the stories are dark, the message is overall one of hope and perseverance.
Before the intermission is a very appropriate number about latkes (potato pancakes), and the concession stand was selling them; however, I wasn't willing to wade through the long line to have them. (Besides, I can get them at the Manhattan Deli at the Atlantis.)
The play ended on a high, fun note with another case (as with The Game Show Show) where the Guggenheims like to get the audience into the act. Afterwards, the cast came to the lobby to mingle and collect donations for the cancer charity for which they were fundraising. I was happy to be able to get a chance to talk briefly with Shannon, Scott, and Stephen Guggenheim, and thank them for the musical. Also in the cast was Jackson Davis (Charlie from The Game Show Show), who flattered me by remembering me as the Microphone Guy. They seemed impressed that we came all the way from Reno to see the show. We wished them well for their New York run.
We expect that they will get the technical issues ironed out in the main venue, and if you're in New York while the show is running next year and want an entertaining, funny musical, I recommend you go see The MeshugaNutcracker!