Chicago Theater Review: HANNUKATZ THE MUSICAL (National Pastime)

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by Sally Jo Osborne on December 6, 2012

in Theater-Chicago


You should live so long to meet the Hannukatz, a big 6 foot fur ball of a cat who drops by the Moskowitz family home in Skokie to educate the kids about the true meaning of Hannukah.  If you want to know “How the Jews Began” and “Where the Jew Began” in a silly, weird, and not-particularly-funny musical, stop on by the new Sally Jo Osborne’s Stage and Cinema review of HANNKATZ THE MUSICAL at National Pastime in Chicagohome of the National Pastime Theater, whose mission states, “Live theater must grab all generations and drag them–perhaps kicking and screaming–into an active role in our world.” There you can see Hannukatz the Musical, an experience that may have you kicking and screaming to get out of the theater.

The interesting Moskowitz clan starts with dad, Gil (Jordon Levin), a Woody Allen type who is sure that he can breed a chicken and a fish to make the newest deli delight called “chish—the best new Kosher food in Skokie!”  A delightful and multi-talented Rachel Pallante plays both Gil’s wife, Syl, and the King of Syria (don’t ask); Syl is very supportive of her husband since her career in selling Roll-O-Files has gone bust; the Roll-O-Files are now obsolete with the advent of the cell phone, and they sit in unopened boxes bringing nothing but garage space issues.  Josh (Isaac Samuelson) and Emily (Maren Rosenberg) are the deprived kids that just want presents like their friends who celebrate Christmas and they think Hanukkah sucks!

Sally Jo Osborne’s Stage and Cinema review of HANNKATZ THE MUSICAL at National Pastime in ChicagoEnter Hannukatz (Wellington Da Saliva), a bigger than life feline and “catnippy, kinda trippy, chocolate chippy old hippie,” who wants to make sure the kids know that Hannukah is not about the presents. He has a lesson to teach those kids about the King of Syria/Antiochus, who was a jerk to the Jews, and the journey that was made to save their land from those Syrians. One of the things you will learn from Terry Abrahamson’s schlockfest of a script (based on his own book) is that, if Syria had its way, there would be 3 commandments:  1) Mayo on ALL corned beef sandwiches; 2) All baby boys must be name Mel; and 3) All middle names of those baby boys must be Gibson. Oy is right! But what else could we expect from a show that bills itself as “the only rock ‘n’ roll Hannukah musical on earth,” which is guaranteed to fill the “holiday vOY-OY-OYd!”

Sally Jo Osborne’s Stage and Cinema review of HANNKATZ THE MUSICAL at National Pastime in ChicagoThe show is a mish mosh soup of silly puns and musical numbers—composed by Michael Carlson—such as, “Do the Chhhh (an audience participation number), “Hannukah Sucks,” “No Jews Allowed,” “Hannukah is Not the Jewish Christmas,” and a twisted version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (“makes a nice filet according to Rachel Ray”). One of the unintended consequences of this well-meaning musical—meant to be an annual, family-friendly, off-the-wall event—is that you may be longing for a “Silent Night.”

I shouldn’t be tough. After all, I learned that Illinois is the only state that ends in “Oy.” But even with a running time of just over an hour, I felt like I was beat over the head with so many kippered herring: “Hannukah is a miracle catsolutely” and is “not your typical Yom Kipurrrrrrrrrrrrr type of feline celebration.” Of course some of the jokes are funny, but the show is funniest when they’re not trying to be funny. And the cast is clearly having a blast. But director Shifra Werch, who needs to inject more chutzpah into the comic timing anyway, is powerless over the fact that, instead of a yarmulke, Hannukatz wears a “Meowmulkah.” And the song about “Pee in your Pants” should just go away.

Who knows if Hannukatz is still experiencing some growing pains? One can hope it gets better. Remember, even a bottle of sickeningly sweet Mogen David Wine can mature over time.

photos by Gia

Hannukatz the Musical 2012
National Pastime Theater at the Preston Bradley Center
scheduled to end December 30, 2012
for tickets call 773-327-7077 or visit

for information on this and other Chicago theater visit

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