It almost seems sacrilegious to imagine the wholesome Santa Claus in a bar chugging beers or being affected by the current financial crisis.
But those worried that the new narrative thread running through Shadowbox Live’s “Holiday Hoopla XX” will alter their beloved image of Santa will be pleased to know that the show is so silly and raucous that the smear on Santa’s reputation is well worth it.
The show’s first act finds Santa (David Whitehouse) relating his current tale of economic woe to a bartender (Mary Randle) and fellow patron (John Boyd) at Shadowbox’s bar. As Santa tells his story, the action cuts away to the sketch stage to recreate the action.
It’s certainly an interesting decision to frame the show like this, although these scenes occasionally take away from the show’s momentum. Plus, one features a strange throwaway bit about Amway that seems completely out of place with the rest of the show.
The sketches themselves fare much better, especially “Mall Santa Santa,” in which Santa deals with the stresses of playing himself at a mall.
“Hoopla” mainstay Dasher (Jimmy Mak) also makes his yearly appearance — this year trying to give Santa a pep talk in the bar — and shows once again why the skit keeps coming back.
As one big sketch, the show’s second act flows better. It features Casey Kasem (Mak) hosting a telethon to help Santa raise the money he needs to keep making toys.
Celebrity cameos from a boozy Keith Richards (a stellar Robbie Nance) and a crazy Lady Gaga (a fantastic Amy Lay) are riotously funny and need to be seen to be fully appreciated.
While neither celebrity sings, we are treated to some fine performances on the musical stage.
The best performance is easily a revamped ensemble performance of Natalie Merchant’s “Children Go Where I Send Thee.” Other highlights include Stev Guyer doing B.B. King’s “Backdoor Santa” and Nikki Fagin performing The Kinks’ “Father Christmas.”
Of course, the Santa Babies return to the show as well, delivering another incredible performance. Dixie (Julie Klein), Dorothy (Stephanie Shull), Daphne (Jennifer Hahn) and the original Dolly (Stacie Boord) are marking their 20th anniversary with another perfect blend of cheesy lounge act and inappropriateness.
The narrative thread idea may not be as ideal for the sketch shows as the troupe had hoped, but with the sketches and songs working as well as they are, it doesn’t keep “Holiday Hoopla XX” from being another amazing Shadowbox success.