Allan Sherman may have been the biggest-selling recording artist of 1962-63, with three albums holding down the No. 1 slot for a total of 11 weeks in just over a year.
Yet today, he's barely remembered, and about the only time you'll hear one of his songs on the radio is on Dr. Demento's syndicated program of novelty hits.
His music lives on, though, in the musical revue "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh," now playing at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theater under the direction of the show's author, Bob Krausz.
With a different cast but in the same venue, the show was one of the bigger hits of the 1996 season.
Sherman's specialty was adding new words to old melodies; the former comedy writer's lyrics largely were written from a middle-class, East Coast Jewish perspective, although the show's title song (to the tune of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours") could have been any kid's letter home from summer camp.
And as for the ethnic stereotyping, it was rather a novelty when his albums--beginning with "My Son, the Folk Singer" were released, but seems very slight indeed, compared with, for instance, TV's "The Nanny."
And it's a lot less specifically Jewish than, say, "Nunsense!" is Catholic.
General audiences should relate with relative ease to its universal themes. (The great Presbyterian musical, meanwhile, is yet to be written.)
"Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" strings numerous Sherman songs into the life story of neighbors Barry Buchman (Todd Yard) and Sarah Jackman (Dana Pauley), from infancy in New York City to old age in--where else?--Miami Beach; several other characters are played by Beau Heckman, Robert L. Harper and Kristin Drathman, each wearing a variety of (figurative) hats.
Sometimes the songs have to be squeezed rather uncomfortably into the plot ("Won't You Come Home, Disraeli?" pops up in a history class); others, like "Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max" (to the tune of "The Wearing of the Green"), "Harvey and Sheila" ("Hava Nagila") and "Shine On, Harvey Bloom" (that, you can probably figure out for yourself) fit in just fine.
If the concept strikes you as funny, you'll probably enjoy the show; the professional cast (evidently singing over prerecorded tracks) gives some of the songs more seeming heft than they might possess in other settings.
Audience members at the show reviewed Feb. 10 appeared to be old enough to remember the original versions and gave all indications of enjoying themselves.
"MARVIN'S ROOM" IN OJAI: Currently playing at the Ojai Center for the Arts is "Marvin's Room," Scott McPherson's drama about a family brought together in times of great physical and emotional stress and made in 1996 into a movie starring Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Karen Moncharsh stars as Bessie. Devoting her entire life to caring for her stroke-disabled father and her doddering but well-meaning aunt (Marlene Reinhart), Bessie falls ill and needs a bone marrow transplant.
She calls for her sister Lee (Karen Courington) and her two sons (Zachary Pugh and either Nick Crane or Jarys Maragopolous), all of whom have significant problems of their own. Much wringing of hands ensues.
More a showcase for acting than anything else, "Marvin's Room" didn't come across as strongly as it might have at last weekend's opening, although under Tom Eubanks' direction Moncharsh, Courington and Pugh are clearly up to the challenge.
Comic relief, provided by Steve Grumette and Rodman Cassleberry, was strong and welcome. And the cross-generational story might provide an interesting night out for parents, grandparents and teenagers.
"HELLO MUDDAH, HELLO FADDUH" continues through Feb. 28 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Forum at 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets range from $22 to $28 and can be purchased from TicketMaster at 583-8700 or at the Civic Arts Plaza box office. For group sales or further information, call 449-2787.
"MARVIN'S ROOM" continues through March 14 at the Ojai Center for the Arts at 113 S. Montgomery St.. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets to all performances are $12; $10, seniors, children and Arts Center members. There is a family price of $39, which admits two adults and up to three children. For reservations or further information, call 649-9443.