Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"The Judy Show: My life as a sitcom" - Endearingly Funny and No Laugh Track Needed

Reviewed by Judd Hollander

Are you ready for The Judy Show? Comedienne/actress Judy Gold certainly is, and thinks of rest of America should be too, her desire to get the show on the air forming the major thrust of her solo stage production, The Judy Show: My life as a sitcom. 

Gold has a keen affinity for the sitcom format, noting more than once how the genre had a major influence in her life. Growing up in the 1970s and 80s she would watch them for hours, often wishing her life was like that, where every problem or issue was solved in 30 minutes (including time for commercials). Among the programs she watched were such "classics" as M.A.S.H., Family Ties, The Brady Bunch (her all-time favorite), One Day at a Time, Maude and Welcome Back, Kotter.

Judy Gold in The Judy Show - My Life As A Sitcom
Photographer: T. Charles Erickson

However Gold's actual life, as she tells it here, was somewhat different from the people she saw on television. Her parents argued frequently and she was never close to her two siblings. Yet conversely Gold was always the "go-to" person in the family - i.e. the one everyone prevailed upon when they had problems. Gold also spent her formative years trying to come to terms with her homosexuality, not to mention consistently being one of the tallest kids in her class and a frequent object of teasing. Though the more Gold looks back on the significant incidents in her past, which includes her first major relationship, the birth of her children and eventually meeting the love of her life, the more she realizes that most of what she went through is indeed something of the sitcom variety; or at least a reality show. It's a premise which, in Gold's able hands and the hands of director Amanda Charlton, becomes quite poignant and funny.

Gold's amiable presence is the reason the entire evening goes down so easy, as she offers up a warm and welcoming attitude while taking the audience on a nostalgic journey through her life. After all, anyone who understands the significance of Sherwood Schwartz in the pantheon of television sitcom history is definitely someone worth listening to. Gold also draws the audience in via her playing excerpts from various sitcom themes on a handy piano and relating them to incidents in her own history. She also comes up with numerous theme songs for the Judy Show, only to find time and again that the world, or at least television programming executives, isn't quite ready for the scenario that Gold has to offer. Or at least, not so far.

The stage play is also a very personal experience for Gold as she looks at her sometimes strained relationship with her parents, at growing up in New Jersey, and the realization of how popular she became when she learned she had the talent to make people laugh. The awkwardness and pressure Gold feels as she struggles to find her own way is one of the things that make the story very relatable to those watching. There's also the gentle lesson that while one's parents can often drive you to distraction, when looking at all that happened with the benefit of hindsight, you start to realize that just perhaps they weren't that crazy after all. It's moments like these where you find yourself rooting for Judy and her extended family to triumph over all the problems they face and wind up happy. Just like in a sitcom. Although it would have been nice to have learned more about Gold's history with her brother and sister, who are only mentioned in passing, as well as some additional back story on her raising and interacting with her two children. The inclusion of which would have added an extra emotional layer or two to the proceedings.

Direction by Amanda Charlton is very good, allowing Gold to make full use of the stage and also to really express herself through the material, making it seem both immediate and fresh. Set by Andrew Boyce is fun-especially the wallpaper consisting of images from different classic sitcoms, some of which you've probably loved since childhood, others which you may have long forgotten. Sound design by Alex Neumann and Janie Bullard, which includes selections from many of the afore-mentioned sitcoms, is quite enjoyable.

The Judy Show hasn't made it on the air yet, though it's come close a few times. But until it does, the Judy Show: My life as a sitcom will do just fine.

The Judy Show: My life as a sitcom
Starring Judy Gold
Written by Judy Gold and Kate Moira Ryan
Directed by Amanda Charlton
Original Music by Judy Gold
Lyrics by Kate Moira Ryan and Judy Gold
Additional Material by Eric Kornfeld and Bob Smith
Music Director: Kris Kukul
Scenic and Projection Design by Andrew Boyce
Lighting Design by Paul Toben
Sound Design by Alex Neumann and Janie Bullard
Stylist: Emily Deangelis
Marketing: HHC Marketing
Advertising: Hofstetter + Partners/Agency 212
Production Stage Manager: Scott Pegg
Production Manager: Joshua Scherr
Associate Producers: Alexander Fraser, Jeremy Katz
General Management: Maximum Entertainment Productions
Presented by Daryl Roth and Eva Price
Produced in association with Jamie Cesa, Lynn Shaw, Tom Smedes, Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman.
Press Representative: Keith Sherman and Associates

The DR2 Theater

103 East 15th Street
Tickets; 212-239-6200 or

Running Time: 85 minutes, no intermission
Extended through November 27th, 2011

May be inappropriate for children under 12

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