Chaos Attraction

Reduced Shakespeare Company Christmas Show

2015-12-13, 2:21 p.m.

So today has been predicted to be a Horrible Storm Day. Now, about every week or every other week or so they’ve been predicting horrible storm days (which is to say: power outages likely) and then all we’ve gotten is a little rain for an hour. However, by the time I woke up today it looks like it’s actually living up to Horrible Storm Day reputation.

I have been debating what I want to do with my day today--I could have gone to something in Roseville, and I was debating going to a panto show. The show in particular has been a hard one for me because I know someone who gives rave reviews of it, but on the other hand, it’s a little kid show and...I dunno. I almost talked myself into going last night, until I looked it up and you can only buy tickets online and my printer refuses to work with my laptop and I don’t have access to anyone else’s printer on weekends right now, and I know nothing if this org can deal with phone scanning of a ticket, so...never mind. But what it kinda really boiled down to was, I don’t want to make commitment plans (and both of those required committing before the day of) if it’s going to be a Horrible Storm Day, which I don’t want to drive in. Heck, I did all my weekend errands yesterday and did a little looking at Christmas lights just in case they blew down. And yup, here it is, horrible storm. So, it’s time to camp out on the couch and get some work done, hopefully before the power blows out.
Because seriously, it is just pissing rain.

Anyway, speaking of shows, last night I went to the Reduced Shakespeare Festival’s Ultimate Christmas Show. Here’s the plot of it:

”Welcome to the Annual Holiday Variety Show and Christmas Pageant at St. Everybody’s Non-Denominational Universalist Church, where all faiths are welcome because we’ll believe anything. But there’s a problem: None of the acts scheduled to perform have arrived, so the three members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company are pressed into service to perform the entire Variety Show and Christmas Pageant by themselves.” Here is the program for the show and here’s a promo video.

So supposedly there’s a huge snowstorm going on (this gets snickers from a California audience) and all of the supposed performers haven’t been able to arrive, leaving the RSC to put on their own show, sometimes approximating the original intent of the “other performers.” In case that link keels over and dies, here’s some mention of the acts.

* The Snowmen: relaxed holiday hip-hop.
* Confederate Christmas Carolers: traditional tunes sung the old-fashioned way.
* St. Everybody’s Holiday Newsletter and Church Bulletin.
* Cleveland Castrato Choir: singing their #1 holiday hit.
* Kwanzaa Concert Caravan: Celebrate the Seven Principles in Song and Story!
* Muslim-American Ramadancers: Celebrating the Holy Koran through movement and dance.
* Cirque du Sleigh: Christmas clowns and acrobats--with a French-Canadian twist!”
* St. Everybody’s Sunday Schoolers: Letters to Santa from our little ones.
* Mary and Ed’s Marionettes: Premiering a controversial new work.
* The Billy Barty Ballet Company: Standing tall in the world of the dance.
* Patrick Stewart’s One-Man Christmas Carol
* North Piddle and Happy Bottom Panto Players: An English tradition!
* Holy Strollers! Holiday toddlers perform the Nativity story.

Of course, for the record, some of these they actually try to approximate and some they do not, and the “Patrick Stewart” they are talking about is a CPA from Dixon.

So you’ve got your three guys in the cast:
* Reed, the Christmas traditionalist, kinda one of those “Jesus is the reason for the season” folks.
* Dan, who just wants PRESENTS, more specifically a Harley.
* Austin, who Reed labels a “pagan.” Austin claims he’s a “utilitarian” and believes in God when it’s useful. Austin also apparently hasn’t spent any time paying attention to lyrics in Christmas carols.

Anyway, since they’ll have to do a refund on the show if they don’t do something, the show must go on, so they start out approximating the acts. For example, Christmas rapping--they’re called “the Snowmen” because they’re white. Then they break out the Confederate Christmas carols--Austin booked this act, not reading the lyrics--and after awhile they are totally freaked out at the racism. Did they spell it with three K’s?

Reed gives Austin a book of song lyrics so he can have a clue what’s going on Later Austin shows up in a cropped pink top and “Juicy” shorts with some sort of mistletoe doily on the crotch--you know, “Don we now our gay apparel.” That got some wolf whistles from the audience. He also did a search for “round young virgin” on the Internet and recommends that you not do that.
Reed decides that there are too many weird carols and really, can’t you just combine them all into one? So he basically strings titles together.

So Dan wants presents (he also likes the holiday “Thanksgetting”), Austin recalls the days when he’d sit on “some guy’s lap and tell him my fantasies,” (no, not Santa, just some guy), and Reed complains that he wants an old-fashioned Christmas. Really, dude? Like the pagan sort?

They talk about how expensive and useless the gifts in 12 Days of Christmas are, and then decide to do their own version with stuff they and the audience members wants. So people suggested new jobs (that lady was REALLY enthusiastic about it), turkeys, Lego sets, tax free contributions (everyone looked at him funny), teacup pigs....

They discuss Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Ramadan (note: no longer a December holiday, it moves), and two guys get into a fight over the last two. There’s a performance of “The Night Before Christmas” done as a terrible Christmas flight in which the flight attendant slides out of the plane. They read some celebrity Christmas letters from Jesus’s brother James, Trump and Palin, and then get into a brief touching straight recounting of the Virginia/Sun letter about Santa Claus.

They also do a gift exchange--yesterday they sent out an e-mail saying that if you wanted to bring a $5 gift you could drop one off and pick one up. And that’s what happened during the intermission. They said you could buy a gift in the front during intermission if you hadn’t brought your own, but I didn’t leave to see how that went. I was surprised at how MANY people actually picked up gifts in the last 24 hours. I totally figured I’d be the only one who did (I picked up a “penguin pooper” at Joann’s). There were two long lines in the audience rotating in and out with presents. It was touching. I got a dish, which....yeah, in all honesty, not excited about that. Sometimes I wish these things could be tagged with “fun gifts” vs. “things actual real women would want.” or something. I just hope an appropriate person (preferably a kid) got my penguin pooper, instead of well, someone who would have rather gotten a dish.

(Uh-oh, power flickers are happening. Type fast.)

Dan comes out at the start of act 2 to inspect the gifts, and finds a $100 gift card from Borders! Score! He then thinks there should be more Christmas women and does a song tribute to Mrs. Claus, sample lyrics: “Her ladyship will crack the whip” and “walking cloud of doom.” She also kicks elves across the room. Where can I get a recording of this song, RSC?

Time to open presents--the guys ask the audience members what they got and when some say they didn’t open them yet, got called “the worst Christmas family ever.” Fruitcake from 1984 and (yet ANOTHER) DVD of Scrooged were exchanged onstage.

To combat the War on Christmas, the guys sing “Happy Merry Christmahanuwanzukah” (or something like that that even I can’t spell), but it’s on the video if you want to hear it. They also call Santa’s 1-800 number and talk to Sanjay Claus.

I liked the discussion of a REAL old-fashioned Christmas, in which Boxing Day was invented because poor people would storm the rich people’s homes demanding food. Yes, “oh bring us some figgy pudding, we won’t go until we get some” happened for real. I believe at some point it was labeled something like “Mardi Gras meets the London riots.” They say that Santa Claus (specifically popularized in “The Night Before Christmas” poem in 1822) actually saved Christmas because it stopped being a holiday of drunken riots, and churches would actually open at Christmas instead of being closed. They are not kidding when they say “commercialization saved Christmas.”

They decide they’re going to put on the Christmas panto themselves (this is why I was reconsidering going to one on the last day it’s know, storm day) and do the nativity. They say pantos usually have some B-list celebrity--they do “Wolf Blitzen” and a man dressed up as a woman, so someone’s out as a pregnant and cranky Mary and Clarence breaks the news. The guy playing King Herod has a blast. The Wise Men are dressed as the Bee Gees because that was the only three outfits they could find in the trunks that matched, so they did some Bee Gees Christmas numbers (again, can I get some recordings of this?) periodically. Also, whenever Herod is on stage with two Wise Men, he keeps demanding the third, so “Caspar” keeps disappearing and returning under a white sheet.

To pull off the “adoration” scene, they fish up some audience members to stand there while the guys run in and out of costume. Three angels--Clarence, Gabriell, and an Angels baseball player. The barnyard animals. The Wise Men (more Bee Gees), the shepherds. Herod drops dead and then begs for a second chance, so what the heck.

Dan gives the other two guys presents and when they say they didn’t get him anything, he says he’s good.

And finally, ONE of the acts for tonight manages to make it to the theater! Let’s give it up for the Billy Barty Ballet Company doing “Lil’ Nutsy,” a Nutcracker done by elves. So you have the performers with a stage in front of them and they’re dressed as Clara/Rat King/Nutcracker from the waist up and their arms are acting as legs. Cheesy goodness!

So, there you go. You guys have no idea how painful this was to write while trying to read off of scribbled program notes I wrote in the semi-dark. But hey, now it's done.

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