Review: It’s a Wonderful SantaLand Miracle Nut Cracking Christmas….Jews Welcome (Street Tempo Theatre)
It’s a Wonderful SantaLand
Miracle Nut Cracking Xmas
Variety is the spice of holiday shows
|Street Tempo Theatre presents|
|It’s a Wonderful SantaLand Miracle
Nut Cracking Christmas….Jews Welcome
Review by K.D. Hopkins
I love variety shows and have longed for their return to the small screen. Well now I have hope, as Street Tempo Theatre gives the audience an early present of mayhem, laughs, and a sprinkle of poignancy.
When you walk in to the theatre, there are elves busy making cookies with sugar flying and an assembly line right out of “I Love Lucy.” The audience is treated to cookies by the sugared up elves. They are warm and buttery little waffle cookies that reminded me of Christmas according to Sears and Roebuck.
The stage is designed with different levels, including an elf house, so that the surprises come from everywhere. There are some pretty cool musical numbers and the ensemble has great singers and dancers. When the chaos of the opening number is done, the vignettes begin. The story of a Jewish girl who wants to share in Christmas blends with the story of the boy whose family is evicted on Christmas eve. The story could have gotten maudlin and heavy but this is a show about miracles and fun. (The Salvation Army saves the little boy’s Christmas, and all is well in Holiday land.)
The skit about the forgotten holidays is a scream. This skit is done with hand puppets and is one of the highlights. Halloween is ticked off, as is the 4th of July, Labor Day, and Administrative Assistant’s Day. Arbor Day gets the lowest marks because no one can say why it is a holiday or its origins. I nearly fell off of my seat when a Martin Luther King puppet appears in the balcony to make the peace with a speech about the equality of all holidays!
Another highlight is the song/dance number about those who don’t celebrate Christmas. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are given the spotlight. (It’s fun enough that I am only slightly bugged by the inference that African Americans don’t celebrate Christmas. Just for clarification, Kwanzaa is an adjunct holiday that is not about gift giving but principles of community. If you’re going to lampoon something be sure of your facts.)
As this is a Brian Posen (Bri-Ko) show, it’ almost certain that there will be a free-for-all scene, and this one is a doozy. The treat making scene with fruit circle cereal and wrapped candy should be called “Elves Gone Wild!” It’s a funny, melange of Marx Brothers silliness and Lucy and Ethel caught in the trick bag by one of their schemes. There is quite the clean up after with peppermints and cereal dust everywhere but it fulfilled my inner messy child’s longing to be in a food fight.
This show has quite a few elements of classic variety shows. If you are not old enough to recall “Laugh In”, “Ernie Kovacs” or “Carol Burnett”, then hit the YouTube – or, better yet, the Museum of Broadcast Communications – to get a deeper understanding of this fine show. It is refreshing and encouraging to see such a young cast doing this kind of classic comedy shtick. It’s fun and appropriate for the whole family in my opinion. (Please remind the children that it is a theater show and they should respect the players……Oh wait, that is the adults that should be reminded. I sat in front of a couple that apparently thought it was okay to have a conversation sotto voce while the narration was happening. It is not cool and be warned that I am working on my dagger shooting look for future infractions.)
I enjoyed this show and it is a good holiday destination (or give the tickets as a gift!). There really are cookies and eggnog passed around, and candy flies through the air with no one losing an eye. Take a break from shopping and enjoy 2 hours of holiday surprises!
Nut Cracking Christmas… continues through December 30th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $30, and are available by phone (773-327-5252) or online through Vendini.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Stage773.com. (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)
Photos by Brian Work
Beth Allin, Jessica Bliss-McVay, Emily Claibourne, Kaitlyn Fleharty, Arielle Goodman, James McGuire, Amanda McWorter, Pete Navis, Molly Padden, Matthew T. Payne, Nikki Pierce, Molly Todd , CJ Tuor, Sara Wolfson
behind the scenes
Brian Posen (director); Jack Short (musical direction); Reeny Hofrichter, Katie Johnston-Smith (asst. directors); Carisa Barreca, Niki Wilk (choreography, from Matter Dance Company); Abby Amey, Winter Davis (asst. stage managers); David Ferguson (stage design); Eric Branson (lighting); Danni Parpan (props); Jason Nykiel (set builder); Jerod Walburn, Derek Shipman (video gurus); Maritzia Flagenbaum (costumes); Ryan Brewster, Chris Gorton, Reeny Hifrichter, Katie Johnston-Smith, Sam Lewis, Brian Posen, Jack Short, Ranjit Souri, Jill Valentine (additional show material); Brian Work (photos)