Friday, July 17, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of 702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical at The Broadway Comedy Club by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of “702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical" at The Broadway Comedy Club was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical
Book, Music & Lyrics by Ginger Reiter
Additional Material by Ian Wehrle
Orchestrations by Noriko Sunamoto
Choreography by Lara Clear
The Broadway Comedy Club
318 West 53rd Street
New York, New York 10019
Reviewed 7/15/15 at 2:00 p.m.

According to Ginger Reiter, she and Jackie Mason had a passionate, seasonal love affair for ten (10) years from September, 1977 to December, 1988. If you ask Jackie, he might say they fooled around once in the back seat of a Chevy. In any case, due to Ginger wearing a diaphragm "most of the time," a little package of joy was born. A paternity suit confirmed baby Sheba was, in fact, Jackie's daughter and he paid Ginger child support until Sheba turned eighteen. Jackie Mason was more interested in fooling around than having a wife or child, so he has remained estranged from his daughter to this day. 702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical is an honest account of their relationship from Ginger's perspective. Her daughter, Sheba Mason, plays her in this surprisingly upbeat musical. Ginger still lives in Florida, while Sheba Mason, just like her father, is a stand-up comic appearing in most New York City comedy clubs including The Broadway Comedy Club, The New York Comedy Club, The Comedy Corner, and The Comic Strip. 

Ginger Reiter is an extraordinarily talented composer, lyricist, and playwright. This musical contains twenty (20) original songs you will want to hear over and over again, such as "The Breeze Is Sweeter In Miami," "Ode To The Early Bird Special," "Much Truth In Jest," and "What Do They Want From Me Anyway." The show opens in Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House Restaurant (whose slogan is, "You'll be glad when you're fed, you 'rascal' you!") in Miami Beach, Florida, where they first met. Ginger's mother definitely encouraged her daughter to continue to see Jackie, who would call her each year when he was performing at hotels and comedy clubs in the Miami area during the Winter Season. Once he left the area, there were no phone calls. However, Ginger and her mother were convinced Jackie had a special appreciation for and connection with Ginger, a teacher of the hearing impaired who was a belly dancer on the side, as opposed to the other women he slept with "for his ego." Jackie would often say, "love is not in my vocabulary, but I have strong feelings for you." As for marriage, he supposedly said, "It's like a yacht. If you're not in the market for a yacht, it doesn't matter how good the yacht is."

Ian Wehrle is a remarkably talented actor and impersonator. He does a spot-on Jackie Mason and has all his gestures and intonations down pat. My only criticism is that he should speak a little slower so the audience can understand everything he says. Ian is a composer, an arranger, and a founding member of the Identity Theater Company. Sheba Mason, who plays herself and her mother Ginger, is a vivacious force of nature; a bright light and a charismatic presence on stage. Eric Anthony Lopez is making his Off-Broadway debut in this production in the role of Nelson Zee. He recently appeared as a Featured Contestant on American Idol on FOX and clearly has the voice and acting talent to make his mark in this musical. Trevor Crane, who is originally from Canada, does a good job playing Wooley the Schlepalong (Jackie's wing man), who delivers invitations to young women to attend Jackie's shows and to have dinner with him. Jennifer Yadav, who was extraordinary as Mrs. Olivier, Ginger's mother, is Managing Director of the classical acting workshop Shakespeare Without Fear. The two Rascal House waitresses were Mary Lauren (Trixie, dressed as a French maid), and the hilarious Jasmine Renee Thomas (Rosa, the Cranky Waitress dressed in black leotards and bunny ears). Although there was no intermission between Act 1 and Act 2, you still get to see Rosa bent over cleaning up the restaurant. All I will say is that you will get to see the dark side of the moon, up close and personal!

I highly recommend you see 702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical. It is a magnificent, undiscovered gem with a talented ensemble cast and inspiring, well-written music. I saw the show the last time it had a run in New York and I became a big fan of the music. Unfortunately, the songs are not yet on CD, although you can hear most of them on YouTube. Still, there is nothing like hearing them in person in the context of the show. At one point, someone asked who would want to see a show like The Vagina Monologues and an audience member shouted out, "I would! I would!." That audience member was John DeMaria, President of The Jackie Mason Musical Fan Club and the only Intellectually-Challenged Adult Working Actor appearing in an Off-Broadway show. He asked me to tell you that he thinks this musical is "the greatest show in New York." It is certainly one of the best Off-Broadway musicals currently playing and I encourage you to go out of your way to see it. For more information and tickets, visit   

Sheba Mason ends the play as herself with the following line, "my father has gone on to do eight (8) one-man Broadway shows, movies, TV shows and became a legend...and as for me - well, I just hope that I have a pinkie finger worth of his talent and a quarter for every early bird special my parents went to when they were in love!" If Jackie Mason would ever speak to me about this topic, I would tell him he has a lovely, talented daughter and that he should reconcile with her before it is too late. Accepting her, having a few dinners here and there would go a long way to healing the emotional wounds Sheba has suffered through no fault of her own. I am told that the last time Sheba saw her father having the early bird special at the Apple Jack Diner in Manhattan, she went over to him to say hello, and recognizing her, he told her to get away from him. As for the musical, Jackie Mason sued to stop it but was unsuccessful since it was written wholly by Ginger Reiter. His comment afterwards was, "I hope she makes a million dollars, as long as she doesn't ask me for a penny."

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