Kung Fu Festigal / Worth the Kick to the Wallet?

It's hard not to disparage the Festigal and the other Hanukkah shows, which may exert a hypnotic charm but also numb the minds of thousands of kids around the country. The media and culture critics who have dealt with the subject in recent years have done so magnificently, and they're right.

At the same time, people vote with their feet and yesterday's matinee at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds was full to the gills. The first part of Kung Fu Festigal 2009 consisted of nine songs performed by leading entertainers, along with interludes designed to tell an ancient Chinese version of Kung Fu.

At the center of the story line is a not terribly wise emperor named Gong, played by Eli Yatzpan, who has three beautiful but dim-witted princesses played by Adi Himelbloy and Agam Rodberg; the role of the beautiful but somewhat smarter princesses is played by Yael Bar-Zohar who, with the help of a stunt double, also shows fantastic abilities as a Kung Fu acrobat.

The story line takes a dramatic turn when a Chinese wise man named Avramele, also played by Yatzpan, foretells the destruction of the empire at the hands of an evil princess - played by none other than singer Maya Buskila. In an effort to save the empire, the emperor holds auditions reality-television-style for "A Fighter is Born."

At this point, there wasn't really much that could be done with the story line. It was so unrealistic, cliched and uninteresting that most of the tots sitting around me were obviously so bored for considerable stretches that they preferred gorging themselves on candy apples (like Rodberg) or cotton candy (like Himelbloy). The menu also included industrial-style hotdogs in a bun that tasted like Styrofoam and popcorn, the aroma from which filled the convention hall almost to the point of suffocation.

The children also wanted glow sticks and Festigal T-shirts, along with a sword with a light and a sword without a light, and glowing necklaces and anything else the hawkers could ply and which the parents and grandparents could still afford after buying tickets - which at full price went for NIS 189 each.

The songs between acts were no less embarrassing than the main story line. None of them will be etched into our national consciousness, nor on bootleg CDs at the central bus station. I have no way of judging the show from the perspective of a child. Most of the youngsters whom I asked said they enjoyed it, but that's no big deal. Anything that will get into their heads at this age in such an ostentatious way and with so many celebrities is likely to be entertaining.