Stars of David has a simple concept. It's a celebration of American Jewishness, presented through the recollections of entertainment, social, and political figures. These come out either as straightforward monologues or in songs.
The songs are the boon and the bane of the revue, now running at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company. Some provide compelling music and narratives, while others pass in one ear and out the other.
The show was crafted from the book by the same name by Abigail Pogrebin, who interviewed five dozen famous American Jews about their experiences. The musical, with songs created by a team of songwriters (including Michael Feinstein), tackles plenty of weighty and not-so weighty subjects.
There are stories and songs about anti-Semitism (from the memories of Leonard Nimoy, Steven Spielberg, and our own Al Franken), fighting assimilation (Aaron Sorkin and Fran Drescher), and changing roles for women within the faith (Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem).
The songs are a mixed bag. Maybe I'm just projecting my own feelings about his plays, but the Tony Kushner song seemed to go on forever and had made its point by about halfway through its run. Elsewhere, the Ginsburg song had a memorable theme (about not being allowed to properly mourn her mother), but came attached to a tune so generic I had to remind myself after the show that, yes indeed, there had been a song about the Supreme Court justice.
None of the faults can be laid at the feet of the four performers, who all sing and perform with easy grace. Laura B. Adams takes on plenty of challenging roles, even having to sing a la Joan Rivers and Fran Drescher. Yet it is her simple approach to Gloria Steinem, and the feminist icon's family-level attempts to create traditions the women could enjoy, that really shines.
David Carey takes on a similar range of characters, and showcases a sweet and fluid voice that is always pleasing to the ears. Similar work is done by Bryan Porter and Daisy Macklin Skarning, who bring the cornucopia of characters to life.
Still, all of this assembled talent could have been molded into something more. There are good thoughts and intriguing stories here, but a touch more insight would have helped to bring it all together.
IF YOU GO:
Stars of David Through March 8 Hillcrest Center Theater 1978 Ford Parkway, St. Paul $19-$28 For tickets and more information, call 651-647-4315 or visit online.