By Peter Filichia
Star Ledger Staff
“Are you ready to cheer? Michael Taubenslag asked the assembled throng. “Yesss!” yelled the kids. “Are you ready to laugh?” “Yesss!” the kids insisted.
Cheer and laugh they did for the next 50 minutes, during the performance of “Hercules” that Michael Taubenslag Productions had offered them. The plot: The terribly self-centered Hercules is marrying the lovely Megera – but not if the “wicked wacky witches” Vera and Rayla can help it. They kidnap Megera and bring her to their brother, the Cyclops. “I'm a big, bad, one-eyed boy,” he gleefully sings, before warning Megera that she'd better behave, “because I've got my eye on you.”
Actually, the Cyclops isn't such a bad guy, though Hercules does insist, “You are so dumb that you couldn't pass a blood test.” That prompts a fight, which Hercules wins.
Not so fast. The Cyclops morphs himself into a dragon, and Hercules must call on Zeus to come down from Humongous Mountain to help. He needs it, for the dragon is about to turn Megera into an animal. That leads to the 50's style song, “I Don't Want To Be A Chicken.”
No, if the Caldecott and Newbery committees that reward excellence in children's lit ever start a theatrical wing, “Hercules” won't be acclaimed. But there is solid comic entertainment here and Hercules does come to learn that muscle-power isn't enough to defeat adversaries, and that brain-power comes in handy.
Every Taubenslag Production ends with a celebration of all kids who are marking birthdays that day. If they're born the day before or after the performance, that's deemed close enough.
The Taubenslags will bring their show to schools, Synagogues, Churches, gymnasiums or any suitable venue.