Chelm! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Chelm! 

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Chelm!, Opera Factory, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Performing a one-person musical requires a wide array of exceptional skills. Ian Geller has one: a rich, booming, mellifluous baritone with the power to make a believer out of even the least devout person in shul. But Geller's musical--his version of a witty Jewish folktale (popularized by Isaac Bashevis Singer in "When Schlemiel Went to Warsaw") about a foolish man who takes a trip to Warsaw yet finds himself back in his hometown--requires not only a standout vocalist but an actor, literary adapter, storyteller, and comedian. Nimbly accompanied by pianist Stuart Leitch in his excellently sung musical numbers, Geller also performs more than a dozen roles and somehow extends this brief tale beyond the two-hour mark, adding plodding digressions and winking asides.

For someone with such an amazing talent, Geller is remarkably uncomfortable onstage--he shifts his weight frequently, uses only a few vaguely defined gestures and mannerisms to represent his characters, and delivers many lines with the emotional range of a golem. If he'd only convert his attempt at a musical into a simple revue, he could be packing them in in Skokie well beyond the millennium--which, according to the Jewish calendar, is still more than 200 years away. --Adam Langer

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