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Broadway's Caught Up 'Short'

August 24, 2006 By:
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Jiminy Glick: Send in the clowns?

Short people don't deserve to live? New Yorkers post this response to Randy Newman: Drop dead!

Because Martin Short's people are the liveliest to be had on stage on Broadway in years. Small world? Small wonder that "Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me" becomes him.

I must say ... why, there's Ed Grimley, Irving Cohen -- sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar -- Jackie Rogers Jr., and legal eagle -- okay, maybe a sparrow -- Nathan Thurm, as thermonuclear an explosion of talent on stage since ... well, since Short's "Little Me."

The breakout star of "Saturday Night Live" puts his life on stage -- well, maybe not exactly his life, but some of it; the rest is fictionalized to be exciting (blame Canada) -- as well as a cast of thousands distilled in the silly sallys of "The Comedy All Stars," stars all whose mimicry mines a wonderfully witty and wacky script by Short and Daniel Goldfarb -- yes, the same playwright whose "Modern Orthodox" was an unorthodox hit on Broadway last year. (Special material is credited to the incredible talent of Alan Zweibel.)

It's all accompanied by the always-on-the-mark music of Marc Shaiman, the "Hairspray" schpritz of fun whose score here serves as gel in keeping a wild and Martinized play from slipping off the stage.

And sometimes it does: An angry theater-goer in a box seat at this outside the box musical at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre -- poor Bernard B. Jacobs; the late producer isn't here to defend himself against the straight-for-the-jugular jibes and japes threaded throughout the play -- Short's "brother" stands up declaiming Martin's insensitivity and sacrilegious portrayal of his family on stage.

And, despite the Christian caste of the characters on stage, well, how off the bimah is that: "We're Jewish!" the brother yells, adding a string of Yiddish invectives that would have Sholom Aleichem shushing the audience as he scurries to the dictionary to see what they mean.

Indeed, there hasn't been so much evidence of Jew-jitsu artistic athletics on stage since "Spamalot" spammed Jewish producers in that Tony Award-winning hit.

Irony of irony, truth trips over fiction so much, one doesn't know who to believe -- indeed, the "brother" short-changes the truth: Martin is Catholic, not Jewish.

And, then there's Jewish Jiminy Glick, the helpless, breathless, senseless centerpiece of a skit that proves a dangerous mind is a thing to waste.

But the show's catholic appeal is its laugh-invoking lure, abetted by that hummable, self-referential, irreverent score by Shaiman, whose partner in parody -- co-lyricist Scott Wittman; his name the ultimate truth in advertising as he also conceived this birthday party of a show with Short -- is someone who sends up and puts down every theatrical conceit and conceited actor ever to stare at a mirror whose name isn't Cassie.

You need more than 700 Sundays to digest all the helpings of hip humor from wildman Martin, with a cast -- stand aside for these standouts: Brooks Ashmanskas, Mary Birdsong, Nicole Parker, Capathia Jenkins and Shaiman as Martin's shameless shaman, a Broadway show's essential "gay white Jewish" composer -- that leaves you short of breath. The wild applause greeting this eclectic crew is Short hand for sheer madness.

And if the humor is sometimes hit or miss, it's more mash than mish.

Martin Short, fame becomes you, indeed. And it's obvious you are the answer to what's become Broadway's lamented lack of imagination.

I must say? I must see! 

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