Tag: Scott Lamberty

Review: Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer (Hell in a Handbag Productions, 2017)

Graham Thomas Heacock, Michael Rawls, Colin Funk, Christea Parent, Josh Kemper, Chase Wheaton-Werle,           

Rudolph the
    Red-Hosed Reindeer

Written by David Cerda 
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
thru Dec 30  |  tix: $25-$30  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

December 4, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Birds (Hell in a Handbag Productions)

Catherine McCafferty stars in Hell in a Handbag Productions' "The Birds" by David Cerda and Pauline Pang, directed by Jeffery Shields and David Cerda. (photo credit: Rick Aguilar)        
The Birds 

Written by David Cerda and Pauline Pang  
Directed by Jeffery Shields and David Cerda
Berger Pk. Coach House, 6205 N. Sheridan (map)
thru Sept 15  |  tickets: $25-$35   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

August 26, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Sexy Baby (Hell in a Handbag Productions)

Alex Grelle and Jeremy Myers, Sexy Baby, Hell in Handbag       
Sexy Baby 

Written by David Cerda and Scott Lamberty
Directed by Derek Czaplewski 
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
thru June 16  |  tickets: $15-$22   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

May 6, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer (Hell in a Handbag Productions)

Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer 019       
Rudolph the
       Red-Hosed Reindeer

Book and Lyrics by David Cerda
Music by David Cerda and Scott Lamberty
Directed by AJ Wright  
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 W. Clark Street (map)
thru Dec 30  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

December 13, 2011 | 2 Comments More

Review: Jesus Camp – The Musical (Corn Productions)


Christian camp converted into clever satire


The cast of Corn Production's "Jesus Camp - The Musical", playing at the Cornservatory

Corn Productions presents
Jesus Camp – The Musical
Written by Robert Bouwman and Julia Weiss
Music by Scott Lamberty
Directed by
Sarah Ballema
at the Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln (map)
through July 16  |  tickets: $7-$15  |  more info

Reviewed by Keith Ecker 

The 2006 documentary “Jesus Camp” depicts the zealous activities of a youth Christian camp in North Dakota. The film treats its subject matter with grave earnestness, capturing the unbelievable beliefs of the adult camp leaders, parents and easily impressionable youths. To be clear, this camp is not Christian lite. It is an Evangelical brainwashing instrument where kids are coerced by omens of hellfire and speaking in tongues is considered normal.

Corn Productions, which operates out of the Cornservatory space in North Center, has taken this absurd and dark documentary and converted it into a clever comedic musical. In the fashion of the Tony-sweeping Book of Mormon, the musical leans more heavily toward critiquing certain Christians than condemning Christianity. And by incorporating a rival Muslim camp into the plot, the musical ups the ante with echoes of the modern holy war that seems to be unfolding in real life.

The cast of Corn Production's "Jesus Camp - The Musical", playing at the CornservatoryThe musical—which clocks in at about two hours but only features eight songs—opens with the ensemble tune "Rise Up!" Like much of the play’s tunes, it is catchy, upbeat and chock full of tongue-and-cheek jabs at non-believers and the perceived superiority of Christians. We soon meet our cast of oddball campers and counselors. Donna Christian (Michelle McKenzie-Voigt) runs the camp. Her pulpit-style rabble-rousing is reminiscent of a TV evangelist as is her thin veil of sincerity. Lee (George Christopher Tronsrue) is the big man on the Jesus camp campus, and his ever-eating sidekick Tongues (Jayson Acevedo) speaks in gibberish. They welcome new camper Brian (Justin Lance), a fey and petite boy. Brian is undergoing a crisis of faith, and this sense of doubt serves to make him the subject of ridicule among the more popular boys.

Meanwhile, female outcast Rachel (Anne Marie Boyer) is a spastic Jewish girl whose non-Christian roots make her an easy target for the other camper’s high-and-mighty smugness. For instance, Lee taunts Rachel by tasking her to accomplish seemingly impossible Christian chores, such as finding a pebble in the shape of forgiveness.

All hell breaks loose, so to speak, when the campers discover that the Presbyterian camp across the lake has changed hands and become a camp for Muslims. This especially infuriates Donna Christian, who vows to do God’s work and deliver the evil followers of Allah into the hands of the devil himself.

Company members Robert Bouwman and Julia Weiss crafted this very funny script. The jokes come fast and often, many landing with excellent precision. But rather than just being full of yucks, there’s a good amount of commentary and heart in here too. The want to belong, what it means to be good and standing up for what you believe in are all running themes that are nicely woven into the fabric of the play.

However, what stops this from being a four-star musical is its length. It’s just unnecessarily long. I was shocked when the lights came up for intermission given that, according to my program, there would only be two songs in the second act. And the second act sure does drag. I suspect Bouwman and Weiss had a difficult time self-editing, but some of these scenes need to be put on the chopping block for the sake of streamlining.

The cast of Corn Production's "Jesus Camp - The Musical", playing at the Cornservatory

With Scott Lamberty as composer and Pete Navis as music director, the songs are energetic and catchy. The ensemble pieces tend to work best as few in the cast (save for McKenzie-Voigt) seem to have the lung power to fill a room. Lyrics are clever and effectively serve to move the plot forward.

The acting is solid across the board. McKenzie-Voigt is devilishly villainous, while Tronsrue makes a great smug son-of-a-bitch. Whoever did the casting for this show did a spectacular job as each actor wears his or her character like a finely tailored suit.

Whether you’re a follower of the Christian God or one of the many outside His flock, you’ll find Jesus Camp – The Musical to be an entertaining and aurally pleasurable experience. Hopefully the ensemble will do another round of edits after opening weekend to condense the show. Still, even in its current two-hour incarnation, the musical finds a way to skip, step and pirouette into your heart, filling that space where – according to the production – Jesus should be.

Rating: ★★★

The cast of Corn Production's "Jesus Camp - The Musical", playing at the Cornservatory


June 19, 2011 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer


The Queer Meaning of Christmas: Always Be Yourself


Rudolph finale by David as Joan

Hell in a Handbag Productions presents
Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer
Book/Lyrics by David Cerda 
Music by
David Cerda w/ Scott Lamberty
Directed by
Derek Czaplewski
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
through Jan 1  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Hell In a Handbag Productions have run their queerlicious holiday spoof, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer for 13 years, yet it’s Christmas theme could not be more current or relevant than if it were written yesterday. Directed by Derek Czaplewski, this Santa Claus (Michael Hampton) is as Scrooge as they come, running the North Pole like a sweatshop. His terrorized elf population scrambles for job security since he’s outsourced most of the toy manufacturing to India. To generate extra income, Santa cynically develops a series of reality TV Mrs. Claus loses her balance. by David as Joanshows for NPN (North Pole Network). Sam the Snowman (Christopher Carpenter) lays out the whole scene with casual and realistic world-weariness, just right for this particular recessionary season.

Into this milieu, Jane (Danni Smith) and Tom Donner (Chad) give birth to Rudolph (Alex Grelle), a sweet little reindeer with an instinctual love for feminine attire. Fresh from the womb, Rudolph can already spot Chanel and Prada on other women and lusts in his heart to wear them himself. But mom and dad fear gender non-conformity just won’t go over well in the gossipy and economically strapped environs of Christmastown. So, they force Rudolph into overalls and trot him out to the reindeer games to put a little butch into his act.

The big butch of the reindeer games, Coach Comet (David Besky), uses his position to put the moves on his young reindeer charges. But, like any classic closet case, he – like everyone else – rejects Rudolph when his unstoppable femme side emerges. While reviling base hypocrisy is de rigueur element for LGBTQ comedy, Hell in a Handbag’s spry and professional cast keeps to the situation fresh, the jokes well-timed and humanely on message. David Cerda’s humorous script holds up fabulously well; it helps that the original Christmas cartoon is also about being yourself, no matter what societal pressures deny who and what you are. Cerda and crew boost the original cartoon with a ton of salacious queer fun and Brigitte Ditmars’ choreography makes the most of a tight stage at Mary’s Attic.

Trailer Trash Barbie by David as Joan Meet Coach Comet by David as Joan
The Dragbeast! The Abominable Dragbeast (David Cerda, center) massacre's a Lady Gag_0007 North Pole Smackdown by David as Joan

Rudolph loses the town’s support but gains a reindeer girlfriend, Clarice (Jennifer Shine), who regales the audience with how HOT his red hose make her. Then there’s Rudolph’s ally Herbie, the elf who wants to be a dentist, who Dan Hickey executes with nostalgic and dorky perfection. Once this pair make it to the Island of Misfit Toys, the audience not only gets to revel in Chad’s exact portrayal of Charlie-in-the-Box, but also the Half-Naked Cowboy (Chad Ramsey), Trailer Trash Barbie (Terry McCarthy) and the Choo-Choo Train (Barbara Figgins) with square wheels.

That Cerda, as the Abominable Drag Beast, tries her grab at fame in a Gaga-esque meat dress, while Ed Jones goes beyond the beyond as Santa’s drunken wife, puts the cherry and nuts on top of Hell in a Handbag’s confection. It’s so bad it’s good for you. But most of all, for all its celebration of pervy practices, Rudolph, the Red-Hosed Reindeer restores a little innocent sweetness to a holiday made hard, jaded and meaningless by rampant commercialism. Always be yourself—that’s the best Christmas message I’ve heard in a long time and something meant to last the whole year round.

Rating: ★★★

Christmastown! by David as Joan

December 18, 2010 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer

Definitely not your father’s Rudolph

From left- Yukon Cornelia meets runaways Rudolph and Herbie (in Hell in a Handbag's Ruolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer. Photo credit- Rick Aguilar

Hell in a Handbag Productions presents:

Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer


Book and Lyrics by David Cerda
Music by David Cerda with Scott Lamberty
Directed by
Derek Czaplewski
Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark Street) thru January 2nd (ticket info)

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

From left- Rudolph, Yukon, and Herbiesee the Island of Misfit Toys in the distance in Hell in a Handbag's Ruolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer.Photo by Rick Aguilar A red panty-wearing reindeer, a boozy hag Mrs. Claus, and an elf with dental aspirations: two of these three character traits weren’t apparent in the traditional holiday classic. Hell in a Handbag Productions presents Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, a parody on the children’s television show “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The campy story tells the struggles of Rudolph (Alex Grelle), a transvestite reindeer born to wear Chanel silk in a J.C. Penney overalls world. In its 12th year, David Cerda has updated his Christmas town misfits’ story with topical jokes about Michael Jackson, the Catholic Church and healthcare. Cerda has unwrapped his imagination to create back stories for the residents of Christmas Town: a pedophile reindeer coach, a tyrant money-hungry Santa, enslaved go-go dancing elves, and a cosmetic surgery drag-queen victim as the snow beast. Not quite the hot-cocoa-by-the-fireplace-on-a-snowy-evening, this Rudolph is more like tequila shots at the bar on a bitter cold night.

In any Hell in a Handbag production, Ed Jones transforms his small supporting role into huge laughs. As a drunken Mrs. Claus, Jones’ facial expressions are hysterical. Joined by Rudolph, Herbie (Chris Walsh), and Clarice (Jennifer Shine), Jones’ quartet belts out the catchy tune “Christmas Makes Me Bitter.” It’s the perfect melody for holiday commercialism burn-outs. The witty combination of the television show’s familiar moments mixed with the dark and disturbing create a warped alternative to the “It’s a Wonderful Life” crowd. Walsh (no relation) nails Herbie the elf in pitch and robotic movement. From the moment she steps on the stage, Lori Lee (Yukon Cornelia) becomes a hilarious version of the simpleton prospector. Her traveling destination song “I Don’t Know” is an amusing rendition of an Abbott-Costello ‘who’s on first’.

From left- Santa Claus, loses patience with flamboyant Rudolph as Score the Elf looks on in horror in Hell in a Handbag's Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer. Photo by Rick Aguilar The greedy capitalist, Santa Claus, threatens one of his elves ( to work faster or suffer the consequences in Hell in a Handbag Productions 'Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer' at Mary's Attic. Photo by Rick Aguilar-

Over the last several years, I’ve made three trips to Cerda’s Christmas Town. Like Christmas cookies, I like to sample all of them but I have my favorites. This production comes in third with some awkward pauses. It’s unclear if it’s new material or new actors mixing with veterans. Regardless, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer is still a great escape from songs like “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You” for the more realistic sentiment “They’ll Hate You If You’re Different.” The 2009 version may not be my favorite but it’s still a tasty holiday treat.


Rating: ★★★

Herbie, the 'not gay enough ' elf that has dreams of dentistry in Hell in a Handbag Production's Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer opening Dec. 5 at Mary's Attic. Photo by Rick Aguilar Score, the not so bright elf in Hell in a Handbag's Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer. Photo by Rick Augilar
December 12, 2009 | 3 Comments More

“Poseiden” extends again – now closing Sept. 27th

Photo by Rick Aguilar- Must give photo credit for publication


Hell in a Handbag Productions presents:

POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical

Book & Lyrics by David Cerda
w/add’l material by Cheryl Snodgrass
Music by David Cerda & Scott Lamberty
Directed by Matthew Gunnels
Where: The Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division Street
Runs: Extended through Sept. 27th  (Buy Tickets)

From Hell in a Handbag’s press release:

At a time when grants have seemingly disappeared and donations are diminishing, and major Chicago theater companies our sending our emergency requests for cash, Hell in a Handbag Productions, through sheer force of will, has produced a Jeff recommended, critically acclaimed, musical comedy with a cast of 23 and a capsizing ship on a budget that many those same theaters use for costumes alone, and the Chicago theater going public has responded favorably with their support. "We were fortunate enough to surround ourselves with a cast and crew that really believed in the show", says David Cerda, Artistic Director of the company. "We took a ‘if we build it, they will come’ approach and thank God, it seems to be working".

All photos by Rick Aguilar

POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical

is both a musical parody and a loving homage to the classic 1972 film, The Poseidon Adventure, the grandmother of all disaster films. The play celebrates and lampoons the beloved cult classic through comedy and music. When a tidal wave capsizes the SS Poseidon luxury liner on New Year’s Eve, a group of scrappy passengers must climb to the bottom of the ship (now above them) before the ship sinks. The perilous journey of these colorful characters, both humorous and tragic, makes for an edge-of-your-seat adventure. Watch the story unfold with a party of hardcore Poseidon Adventure fans who provide personal commentary and touching insight on how film resonates in our collective conscious, resulting in very real shared experiences.

August 4, 2009 | 0 Comments More