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John McGivern is Earlene Hoople in "A Kodachrome Christmas" at the Marcus Center.
John McGivern is Earlene Hoople in "A Kodachrome Christmas" at the Marcus Center. (Photo: Ross Zentner)

Another Christmas with John McGivern

The icons of Christmas in modern Milwaukee. Santa. Rudolph. Scrooge. John McGivern.

As sure as the days getting shorter and doorbuster sales at the mall, Milwaukee's favorite funny man, McGivern, pops up in some kind of Christmas production every year. This season it is the one-man show "A Kodachrome Christmas" in Vogel Hall at the Marcus Center.

The big news is that McGivern is in drag, playing a public access-channel cable TV hostess, Earlene Hoople, presenting her annual holiday program. Here's a little secret. He is kind of cute as a girl.

"A Kodachrome Christmas" was authored and directed by Pat Hazell, who previously worked with McGivern on "The Wonder Bread Years" and "Bunkbed Brothers," and although it was not written specifically for Milwaukee, the script has been adapted to include many local references. Ozaukee County gets a lot of attention.

Most of the show is standup comedy in costume on a set, and that is what McGivern does best. His comic patter is entertaining, albeit rather sophomoric, and the multiple sight gags are fun. There are plenty of puns and a few slightly naughty jokes.

Pre-recorded ersatz television commercials projected on a screen come from the "Saturday Night Live" school of advertising spoofery.

Following a formula that McGivern has developed over the years, "Kodachrome" turns sentimental towards the end. He has gone to the well once too often with that device, and it comes across as weak and strained here.

Just keep us laughing, John. "Kodachrome" continues through Dec. 31.


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