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"Mazel & Shlimazel" shows that we can make our own good luck
Do we have good luck, or bad luck, or do we make some of our own luck?
Messenger photo by John Matuszak
Leading cast members for Gallery Players' production of the musical "Mazel & Shlimazel," with their respective Lucky Charms and Jinxes, include, in the back row, from left, Jamie Ranke, Jason Schenk, Norma Whitmyre and Cantor Jeff Siegel. Noah Portman, pictured below, portrays the spirit of bad luck, Shlimazel, to Siegel's harbinger of good fortune, Mazel, in the play being staged Dec. 8-16.
That's the mystery and the message of "Mazel & Shlimazel," a lively musical being staged by Gallery Players Dec. 8-16 at the Roth/Resler Theater, 1125 College Ave. The production is directed by Laurie Alexander.
The play, based on a Jewish folk tale by Isaac Bashevis Singer, shows "If we meet God half-way, he will meet us the rest of the way," offered Cantor Jeff Siegel, who plays the spirit of good luck, Mazel.
The character exists, not just to shower the hero with rewards, "but to show him he has the ability to do things on his own," Siegel explained.
Mazel is opposed by Shlimazel (portrayed by Columbus Torah Academy student Noah Portman), the embodiment of bad luck.
"He's a wise guy. He's cynical. He's there to mess people's lives up and to convince them to give up," Siegel observed.
The two make a bet about who is the strongest, and Mazel is given a year to bring good fortune to "the poorest, unluckiest person in the world."
The arrogant Shlimazel brags that he can undo everything his rival accomplishes in one second. While he promises no dirty tricks, he really can't be trusted and uses his Jinxes to torment the hero.
"I'm the dupe Shlimazel has been picking on ever since I was born," explained Jason Schenk, who plays Tam.
But despite the discouraging circumstances, he continues to have hope.
When a carriage crashes, he is introduced to Princess Nesika, played by Jamie Ranke, and is struck by her beauty.
But this princess isn't exactly in the market for a Prince Charming, according to Ranke, who sings that "she would rather marry a horse than a man."
Instead, the young woman is trying to take charge of her own life and get away from her domineering mother, who keeps trying to marry her off to "a bunch of idiots."
"She's a little quirky," admitted Norma Whitmyre of the queen.
Shlimazel puts a death sentence on the queen, that can only be cured with the milk of a lioness. Obtaining the milk becomes Tam's quest; only the trickster Shlimazel twists his voice so he can't inform the queen of his accomplishment.
It all comes out right in the end, of course, with large dollops of humor and audience participation that will appeal to young audiences.
While not directly about Hanukkah, such as previous productions such as "Prairie Lights," it does have a great Hanukkah message, commented Siegel, cantor at Beth Jacob synagogue.
The holiday is about "the small triumphing over the mighty," Siegel observed.
It also shows that, while God doesn't expect us to do things all by ourselves, we have to make an effort, he added.
This theme is particularly appealing to Siegel, making his first appearance with Gallery Players.
In addition to his cantorial duties, he works with young adults with Asperger's Syndrome, a type of autism.
Like Mazel, he tries to show them that, if they have the courage to ask for help, they can go far.
"Mazel and Shlimazel" will be staged Dec. 8, 13, and 15, at 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 9 and 16 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for Jewish Community Center members and $10 for JCC senior members, $16 for non-members and $14 for senior non-members. Admission is $6 for children and students, and $8 for groups of 10 or more.
For information on tickets, season subscriptions or becoming a JCC Patron of the Arts, visit the Gallery Players website at jccgalleryplayers.org, or call 559-6248.
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