Ah, yes the wonderful season of Christmas.
"A Christmas Carol" and "The Nutcracker" and glorious light displays in the parks and music in the malls and families gathering around the fireplace and waiting for snow so that Santa’s sleigh can arrive and Christians the world over paying holy homage to the birth of Jesus Christ.
And then there is In Tandem.
The theater company that spent a decadent decade staging "Cudahy Caroler Christmas " to sold-out houses has now unveiled it’s newest foray into unrestrained holiday humor with the opening of "Holiday Hell: The Curse of Perry Williams," a gift from Anthony Wood and Mondy Carter.
The comparison of "Perry Williams" to any other holiday theatrical offering is purely coincidental as a sparkling cast of four singers and actors swept through the stage at the Tenth Street Theater like a chimney sweep cleaning the flue in preparation for a visit from a fat guy in a red suit.
There was not a speck of holy holiday left once they got done telling a riotous story drenched in tinsel with no seasonal moment left unsullied by the kind of humor where you think maybe you shouldn’t laugh, just as your stomach starts to hurt from laughing.
Here’s the story.
Perry Williams (a smooth and vapid Adam Estes) is a classic 1950s crooner who has a television show at Christmas where he sings songs of the season. Perry has an assistant named Darla (a striking and conflicted Kathryn Hausman) and another guest on his show Granny Goodbottom (Samantha Sostarich) who is a Minnie Pearl clone, if Minnie Pearl sounded like a sailor on liberty in Bangkok after a dozen shots of Wild Turkey.
The hook is that Perry can’t really sing. Benny (a innocent and sinful Zach Thomas Wood) provides the voice while Perry mimes the words. Even though it’s Benny who keeps Perry on top, the boss treats him like dirt.
The cataclysm of a lost singing voice sends Benny packing and Perry sells his soul to the devil (a sinister and exaggerated Marques Causey) in exchange for the ability to sing on his own.
Twists and turns and tribulations follow with a vast selection of parody songs that are as irreverent as they are funny.
To the tune of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year", Perry (Benny) sings:
"It’s the most gift-getting time of the year.
Electronics and wallets and gloves you can’t stall it
So heist up a beer
It’s the most gift-getting time of the year."
To the tune of "Memories are Made of This."
"Take one piece of mistletoe
Add one chick who’s good to go.
One guy, one dame
So who’s to blame
Holidays are made of this."
Perhaps the funniest exchange takes place when Benny is rescued from oblivion by a Texas millionaire named Tex Arkana (Causey) who offers to create a television network and a Christmas program that is true to the holy nature of Christmas that both he and Benny believe in deeply. Their first exchange is done with a seriousness that only adds to the humor of the scene.
Tex: Well dag-nabbit, boy, where I come from we believe in the real, tried and true story of Christmas. The one where the stars and planets froze in the heavens and a choir of glowing hosts sang Alleluia so loud the windows cracked in whore houses for miles around.
Benny: And the hay in the manger transformed into golden threads of the finest silk when drooled on by the Baby Jesus?
Tex: And their shimmering halos took off like Holy Frisbees and flew around the heads of the animals, illuminating the darkest corners of the barn, right into the mouse holes.
Benny: And so it was that the glow from their halos made animals stand on hind legs and talk and they spoke of things mysterious.
Tex: I hear tell the pot bellied pig sounded a might like Alfred Hitchcock.
And so on.
The laughs come quick and fast and a few fall flat. But most of this show is joyous holiday entertainment and the entire cast delivers with the kind of broad comedy that the script requires.
A word has to be said about Sostarich who is rapidly building a reputation as one of the funniest female actors in town. She seems to be able to get into a depth of every character she plays and finds the funny bone just waiting to be tickled. Watching her play the dirty granny, the pleading newsboy and the sultry seductress of Benny is a treat worth an entire evening.
"Holiday Hell: The Curse of Perry Williams" runs through Jan. 8 and information on 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.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
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.