They did it for the ninth time, and the final show belonged to the all the girls.
For the ninth and last time, In Tandem Theatre Company opened the perennial holiday favorite "A Cudahy Caroler Christmas" over Thanksgiving weekend.
This homage to all things Milwaukee in general and Cudahy specifically is a show dotted with the rude, the crude and the nearly nude.
The theory is a simple one. Stasch (Chris Flieller) is trying to get the Cudahy Christmas Choir back together after a period of inactivity. One by one, he visits each more-than-slightly dysfunctional former choir member and does his best to convince them to come to rehearsal the next night at Bowl-A-Riffic.
As he visits each singer, that starts the parade of feminine favorites who gradually top each other for raucous humor.
It starts with Edna Kaputish (Lisa Morris) who just won one-eighth of a modest lottery prize. She tells Stasch her name is no longer Kaputish but is now "Kaputishe" (pronounced Kap-oot-i-shay) since it sounds more appropriate for the North Shore or Whitefish Bay where she plans on moving. She has left her husband and desperately wants to leave Cudahy.
The first song is to the tune of "Winter Wonderland."
Oh the Cudahy folks are frightful
But Fox Point is so delightful
Since the culture here is just so-so
I'll let it go, let it go, let it go!
She agrees to rejoin and Stasch is off to Nellie (Megan Kaminsky), Edna’s estranged daughter. She has been kicked out of the house and spends all her time practicing poses that are used by water skiers in the Tommy Bartlett Water Show in Wisconsin Dells, a notorious campy summer resort area. Nellie’s goal is to be a ski queen, even though she can barely swim and has never been on water skis. The Dells is her own private Valhalla.
This is sung to the tune of "Silver Bells."
Stinking hot traffic jams
On the street
There's a guy selling trinkets
Out of bad tourist traps
And on every street corner there's beer
In the Dells, In the Dells
It's tacky time for the tourists
It's a fling, where cash is king
And everyone has to pay
Once Nellie is on board, it’s time to visit Wanda (Jocelyn Ridgely), a beautician who is hungry for a man – any man – and who has more hair than boobs, although it’s a close call. She loves to use her body to seduce, allure and persuade Stasch. Ridgely created the role of Alison in the stunning production of "Trainspotting" at Off the Wall Theatre, and these two roles couldn’t be more different.
For Wanda, her shop is her life, but she will give up a little bit of it for time with Stasch.
She describes her work to the tune of "Winter Wonderland."
In the old days you would get a dye job
From a box that you bought at the store
When you were done you had a massive cry job
Half your hair was blue and half was on the floor
These three actors have just about knocked our socks off. One after the other, they create characters both memorable and more than a little bit pathetic. And then comes the biggest bomb of all.
Stasch needs a new girl singer, and he auditions Trixie (Samantha Sostarich), a librarian who is an expert in the Dewey Decimal System. Trixie walks in, clutching songbooks tightly to her chest. She begins to sing her audition song, but you can barely hear her. Stasch asks her to sing louder. She tries again, but it’s virtually impossible to hear.
She admits to being nervous and asks for something, a little something, to "calm my nerves a bit." Stash gives her a bottle of Dr. McGillicuddy’s peach-mango schnapps.
You can see this joke coming from a mile away. First she takes a sip and then throws it back to guzzle. She is immediately transformed into a chanteuse, unbuttoning her sweater and blouse and turning the Dewey Decimal system into a roaring hot torch song.
She sings to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
God help you all librarians,
Let nothing stop the fight, Remember Dewey Decimal
Set up the system right,
To keep those books from getting Out of hand and out of sight;
O tidy non-fiction and art,
Fiction and art,
O tidy non-fiction and art.
Sostarich steals this show with a torment-filled journey of drinks to keep her calm, including a box of wine tilted back while she lays on her back, shoe polish that leaves a white ring around her mouth and finally a tin container of paint thinner.
All ends well as the choir reunites and holds its final concert on a TV access channel.
The successful end of the production is a poignant reminder that, for the time being at least, "A Cudahy Caroler Christmas" will be missing from the holiday offerings in this town.
In the past, this show has not been my favorite, but I have figured out that the problem was mine, not the show. It’s going to be missed.
"A Cudahy Caroler Christmas" runs through Jan. 4 and information about showtimes and tickets is available here.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
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Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.