I had to see Latkes and Applesauce on DVD, having been unable to attend either performance. But the video recording is clean and not at all TV’d-up; it’s a single camera affair made for archival purposes, and I’m glad to have seen it finally.
It’s a Hanukkah revue, written by many of my colleagues (and me!), and as with any multi-writer revue, the style and tone changes with every scene, every song. But you know what? It all holds together. If the deck is somewhat stacked toward the Jews who know more about Christmas than the Christians do about the festival of lights in Buck and Acquisto’s “No Matter How You Spell It,” I can live with that. If Hartley and Davis’s “A Hanukkah Hymn” seems disproportionately long to the rest of the material, I’m okay with that too. Is the opening number a little too reminiscent for my taste of Barry Manilow’s “It’s a Miracle”? (Maybe it would have been better to license that song and write new lyrics for it than to write a new song that sounds a lot like the old one – or maybe I’m the only one who cares.)
The “Hanukkah Idol” sketches are WILDLY funny. The “Postcards to Grandpa” monologues are funny, and touching. Hubbard and Oler’s “One Little Hanukkah Candle” is lovely and simple, and my own “Ballad of Thomas the Shammus” holds up very well in such company as my talented writer colleagues. The five adult actors and music-director Jihwan Kim show amazing range. The Kaufman Kids children’s chorus are sweet as can be.
Were I to draw some comparison between this family show and Shrek, all I’d want to say is that Latkes is funny to kids and grown-ups without ever making adults uncomfortable. Latkes is done on a shoestring budget, with a cast of five and a band of one. And you know what? It feels like more. Its oil never runs out.
It’ll be back next year. Take your friends.