Now that the "Real World" season is over, Mr. Shandis believes that I'm no longer pulling my admittedly considerable weight around the Big Empire. "Hey you," he said to me, "What do you think this is, the blankety-blank... charity...er... place?" So, there you have, mes amis, the eloquent reason I am now reviewing "Holiday Vaudeville", as performed by the South Suburban Theatre Company in Littleton, Colorado. "Holiday Vaudeville" was rumored to be "a musical romp celebrating the holidays." This romp also promised free refreshments, so I agreed to attend the show. (Don't get your hopes up about the snacks, gang; all you get is some storebought cookies with colored sprinkles, soda pop, and some coffee with crappy nondairy creamer. Oh, and some mints. My coffee cup leaked.)
Basically, the Annex Theatre is a small multi-purpose room populated with the vinyl chairs common in church basements. The night my husband, our friend Rocky, and I saw "Holiday Vaudeville", the room filled quickly. (An aside here, sweeties. This particular community theatre production was not my first choice. The other choice, "Dad's Christmas Miracle" at the Festival Playhouse in Arvada, had sold out. And here I was, in another community theatre teeming with enthusiastic patrons. Who knew that the Denver metro area was such a community theatre mecca?) The room was chock-a-block full of suburbanites in holiday sweaters, ranging in age from the Sunset Magazine crowd to the Modern Maturity crowd. The few young people obviously knew someone in the show.
I knew we were in for it when Jerry "Crazy Eyes" Schell lisped to the crowd, "The holidays make us feel a little jolly... a little silly perhaps." My fear increased when the ensemble invaded the already cramped audience singing, "We Need a Little Christmas." My fear turned to bitter ire when audience members on the edges received candy canes while those of us sitting towards the center got zip diddley-squat. And, that's not the only downside of sitting in the middle- more about that later, folks.
But, the first half of "Holiday Vaudeville" turned out to be cheesily satisfying, if only because it revealed Yuletide's Dark Side. In "Holly Jolly Christmas Trees", the audience was treated to a wiggling sort of jig perfomed by two people (Michelle Girard and John Gerlick) in tree costumes. The absurdity of these quivering spongy green cones singing actually made the Filthy Critic guffaw. And, the first clue that all was not well in this winter wonderland arrived when a hatchet-wielding Kathy Schell threatened the spastic conifers. Subsequent numbers portrayed infidelity with a snowman, a Rudolph with scoliosis, elfin bulimia, disgruntled dwarf labor, and sexual harassment at the North Pole. In "A Day in the Country," I could see the scheming sparkle in Kathy Schell's eyes as she plotted her infidelity with a snowman, even before her hubby Bjorn "Frankenstein's Monster" Thorstad left the sleigh. She just couldn't wait for Bjorn to skedaddle, so she and Frosty could make snow angels! Tim Moore, who portrayed the bingeing and purging elf in "Candy," was a favorite among the Filthy Critic, Rocky, and myself. I think I liked him because he reminded me of my favorite Lifetime special, "The World's Most Perfect Little Girl." The least favorite spot for all of us was the dwarf spectacular, "Hardrock, Coco, and Joe." Even the kids in the audience didn't buy it; I distinctly heard one announce with scorn, "That was silly."
The second half wasn't as amateurishly appealing. Sure, the singing was still off-key, the acting was still as hammy as Christmas dinner, and the dancing was a heavy-footed version of Jazzercise (note to producers: If I wanted to see a whole bunch of housewives shimmy and shake, I'd go to Hobby Lobby during a sale). The company performed a ten minute version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," featuring smart-alecky ghosts and some...um... unique actorly accents. (Who knew that Scrooge's nephew hailed from Tijuana?) Many of the songs in the second half emphasized the eternal gulf between shopping womenfolk and sports-lovin' guys. Well, loves, all I have to say about that bleak and tired view of gender relations can't be printed in a family newsletter.
Then, the writer of the show suddenly decided that the audience was having too much fun with his interpretations of Christmas pop standards. Mr. Rick Lawson wanted us to "remember whose birthday this is." His tactic wasn't too successful, though, because I overheard one kid yelp in response, "Santa's!" So, everyone got all serious for the " 'Neath the Vine and Fig Tree" number, and then settled in for an interminable version of "Twelve Days of Christmas". This last part of the show was marred by my husband's discovery that Bjorn "Re-Animator" Thorstad was staring directly at him! I'm not kidding, friends! To this day, we're uncertain why the scenery-chomping Bjorn was so taken with the Filthy Critic, but I do know that my husband had to drink a few stiff ones after the show to put the startling image out of his head. So, my dears, I issue to you this warning: do not, no matter what, sit in the middle of the theatre and catch Mr. Thorstad's startled border collie gaze. You will certainly regret it if you do.
Twelve bucks was plenty steep for a hobbyist's production like this one, even with refreshments. The costumes are minimal, the sets are heartbreakingly homemade, and the show is only an hour long. However, I don't think that making it any longer would increase the value. I think that the South Suburbanites should either improve the refreshments, or charge less per ticket. And, finally, let me admit that I give these folks a hard time, but I will freely admit that it takes a lot of guts to get up on stage like that. Good for them. They were probably having a great time, and at least they weren't comatose and drooling in front of the teevee. Joyeux Noel to all, even to the communty theatre thespians out there!
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