Jesus' Kid Brother Keeps Sibling Rivalry All in the Family

Beverly Hills Outlook

If you want to see the best musical in L.A., hurry to the Hudson Mainstage Theater now to see "Jesus' Kid Brother", because it'll cost you a lot more for a ticket when it becomes the best musical on Broadway!

Perhaps you were not aware that Jesus had a kid brother. His name was Larry. As portrayed by David Brouwer he is a winsome lad with a great singing voice and a fine pair of dancing feet who lives lovingly but reluctantly in the shadow of his older, more gifted brother. With little skill as a carpenter, he is urged by Joseph not to work in the family business. So he finds work, with his friend Barabbas (a wonderful Christopher Dean Briant).

All the while he is accompanied by an energetic ensemble---18 terrific singers and dancers, cavorting to such show-stoppers as "It's tough to be a Jew in Biblical times" and "It's great to be a Roman." And the ever-popular "Leper in the House" and the "Free Barabbas Polka."

This is the New Testament as it might have been written by Monty Python. With a little help from Mel Brooks. Written instead by brothers Brian and Mark Karmelich, the book and lyrics have a Jewish sensibility, even though the brothers themselves were brought up Catholic. The play skirts the delicate edges of sacrilege and remains inoffensively hilarious---not an easy thing to do in these P.C. times.

Larry finds true love at the Sermon on the Mount, where he and Barabbas have gone to meet girls. And of course the object of his affection turns out to be Mary Pilate, favorite daughter of Pontius, a beautiful shiksa played by Katherine Von Till as the first dumb blonde ever to captivate a nice Jewish boy.

There is the evil Pilate, played with smarmy authority by Amir Talai, who also, fittingly, plays Judas. And his second, unfavorite daughter, Destiny Pilate, played by Rana Davis. And a lot of other characters you won't find in the New Testament or the Old.

As directed by Jules Aaron and choreographed by Brian Paul Mendoza, this superb cast bounces through a series of musical numbers that are funny, clever, and sophisticated. Not a trite rhyme or false note to be heard. The set, designed by Don Gruber, creatively uses vertical risers to mount the action on different levels and Murphy-bed-like foldouts to provide tables and other furniture for sidebar scenes. It's a clever use of a small space to tell a big story. And best of all, there are no annoying blackouts while the scenery changes or the cast, playing multiple characters, change costumes (nicely designed by Shon LeBlanc). In fact, everything moves at a pace that, unfortunately, leaves the lighting (designed by J. Kent Inasy) just a beat behind.

And speaking of beat, there is an onstage band, partially hidden above the action, which provides delightful musical accompaniment. Conducted by pianist Brian Murphy, the group includes Phil Moore on reeds, Jeff Miley on guitars, John Flitcraft on bass, and Scott Palacios on drums.

"Jesus' Kid Brother" consistently marches to its own drumbeat. But you'll be happy to follow it every step of the way. It will be at the Hudson Mainstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., through November 23rd. Catch it before it marches off to Broadway!

(c) Beverly Hills Outlook

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