Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
December 20, 2013
Holidays got you down? Already overstuffed on treacle and sentimentality? Theatrical help is on the way. Musical, satirical or silly, there’s a Christmas antidote with your name on it.
If you think “The Christmas Carol” could use a little goosing, try “Scrooge in Rouge” at Diversionary Theatre. Twenty characters played by three amusingly overtaxed actors – who sing, dance, quip, cavort and change costumes and wigs faster than you can say “Tiny Tim.” Beneath the drag – both male and female – these funny folks do manage to tell the tale of the famous Victorian miser’s redemption. In the English music hall setup, anything goes: shtick, songs, innuendo and raunch galore.
Tony Houck, dragmeister extraordinaire, who also directed, teams with game Samantha Ginn and cheerful Justin Warren Martin, and together, their adorable, malleable performances make the silliness irresistible. Marvel at the costume genius of Jennifer Brawn Gittings and the wizardly wig-work of Peter Herman.
Speaking of costumes, one getup practically steals the show in “The Humbug Holiday Spectacular” at North Coast Repertory Theatre. It’s a human-sized Humbug, Horatio by name, the brilliant creation of Renetta Lloyd.
The new show is conceived, written, directed and performed by nutty-buddies Phil Johnson and Omri Schein. Schein also wrote the madcap songs, with James Olstead , delightfully played by Patrick Marion.
There’s some sort of screwball plot, with a fright-wigged Christmas Spirit, in a comically over-the-top portrayal by Johnson, whose visitation to Horatio, hilariously played by Schein, is intended to entreat him to create a show that celebrates the true meaning of Christmas. If he fails, the Spirit will eat all Horatio’s little baby larvae.
Don’t expect this to make much sense. But do expect quick-change costumes, Hanukkah humor, a sarcastic elf, and enough laugh lines flying by that something is bound to strike your funnybone . Multi-talented Sarah Errington and Debbie David contribute mightily to the music and mayhem.
Now, on the slightly more serious side, an alternate religious tradition is explored in the Off Broadway cult hit, “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant.” The script, penned by Kyle Jarrow , takes its content from the writing of L. Ron Hubbard. Conceived by Tony Award-winner Alex Timbers, the offbeat play with music requires a child cast. At OnStage Playhouse, most of the nine-member ensemble, ranging in age from 8 to 17, has never acted before. And while that’s commendable in its way, and OnStage took a praiseworthy risk with this San Diego premiere, a more experienced group of kids would undoubtedly add punch to the oddball humor and goofy songs. The videotapted impersonations of high-profile Scientologists Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta are a highlight.
Whoever said holiday fare was ho-hum?
“Humbug Holiday Spectacular” runs through December 28, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
“A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” plays through December 22, at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista.
“Scrooge in Rouge” continues through December 29, at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.
©2013 PAT LAUNER