Santasia—A Holiday Comedy is back for its 9th annual potpourri of skits, videos, musical production numbers, and recollections of Christmases past—and what a show it is, whether you’re someone who’s enjoyed the all-male cast’s wackiness in years past, or a newbie like me. Of all the Christmas shows I’ve seen this season, Santasia is quite possibly the best blend of comedy and heart.
The “Loser’s Kids” (yes, that’s what they call themselves) are James Elden, Lon Gowan, Andrew J. Hillis, brothers Brandon and Shaun Loeser, and Art Oden, who’ve been rightly compared to The Kids In The Hall in their offbeat humor and often gender-bending characters.
Santasia begins even before the talented sextet make their first appearance, with multiplex-style “pre-show entertainment” projected above the show’s very Christmassy set. Ads for supposed North Pole businesses alternate with trivia questions and “unscramble the letters” puzzles. Company members appear in several “Previews Of Coming Attractions” including an absolutely hilarious one for Brokeback Igloo, the tale of two fishing buddies in love—complete with “I wish I could quit you” and some man-on-man smooching.
Santasia’s Christmas-themed skits are almost uniformly winners, especially:
•“Two Camels And A Donkey,” which features the Three Magi arguing about the gifts they’ve brought the baby Jesus. “What’s wrong with myrrh?” complains one of them, while another tells the gold-bearing Wise Man “I thought we’d agreed on a limit!”
•“Guess What Daddy???”, an opening-presents-on-Christmas morning treat with the priceless line, “What? A Swiffer for Christmas?!?”
•“f!@#$’ Lights!!!!”, featuring a dad and his sons decorating their house with lights galore and “a goddamn fucking penguin” on the roof—just trying to get it done so they can watch the game on TV.
Then there are the sensationally funny production numbers, with music direction and orchestrations by Omar D. Brancato and choreography by Tania L. Pearson-Loeser (Shaun’s wife). These include
•An outrageously funny A Chorus Line” spoof, to the tune of “I Hope I Get It” with “tiny tots” (the men in kids’ clothes and little girl drag) making their Christmas wishes to the music of Marvin Hamlisch: (Insert ACL melody) “I really need this bike. Please God, I need this bike. I’ve got to get this bike.”
•“How Do I Look?”, with the cast clad only in miniskirts and Christmas-themed bikini tops dancing (semi-)gracefully to the oh-so-chic sounds of “Stylish Girl” by Dimitri From Paris.
•A Full Monty take-off (pun intended) with the “studs” of Santasia doing their Chippendales best to the pulsating beat of Tom Jones’ “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” (The boys may not be as fit as fitness models, but they sure can shake their groove things.)
Sandwiched between these wild and crazy skits and production numbers are videos as well as tales of the cast members’ Christmases past. There is a series of deliberately artsy-fartsy black-and-white “ads” for Santasia Perfume by Kris Kringle, directed by Brandon Loeser and Lon Gowan, a TMZ spoof featuring a paparazzo who stalks both Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and TV’s Jim J. Bullock, and “Pulp Christmas,” a foul-mouthed claymation-style Christmasization of the Tarantino classic. (First-class animation by Red Hatchet Films and Michael Granberry.)
The “heart” of Santasia comes in the series of Christmas memory monologs by each of the “Loser’s Kids.” Lon recalls going home to his parents’ Christmas Tree farm in Vermont, where the highlight of his mom’s Christmas morning is gifting unsuspecting guests with a “Ta Ta Daaaa”. (You’ll have to see Santasia to find out what a “Ta Ta Daaaa” is and what it means.) Art recalls the Christmas morning he found nothing under the Christmas Tree, while James reminisces about how his brother, his sister, and he used to dance for their mom to “The Little Drummer Boy” by Johnny Mathis. Andrew recalls his dad’s inevitable purchase of the cheapest, scrawniest $10 tree on the lot, and then explains just why Dad always bought the cheapest one. Brandon remembers the Christmas when he found out that his mom wasn’t the only one allergic to evergreens, while Brandon’s brother Shaun recalls his and Brandon’s dad’s 6 a.m. all-day Christmas projects, when only three TV shows could get him to take a break, the tale ending on a heartwarming note that just may bring tears to your eyes as it did to mine.
The evening’s 90 minutes of comedy and musical magic ends with the best and biggest production number of all, a “Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy” (of course the guys wear tutus) which turns into a truly exhilarating sleigh ride down the mountain to the strains of the Lone Ranger’s signature “William Tell Overture.”
Writers/stars Elden, Gowan, Hillis, Loeser & Loeser, and Oden are terrifically zany alumni of Chicago’s Improv Olympic and Second City and L.A.’s Comedy Sportz whose work here couldn’t be funnier or more inspired. Shaun Loeser, the show’s whiz of a director, designed the Christmas-trees-and-lights-filled set and Brandon Loeser was in charge of the show’s eclectic soundtrack. The very Christmasy lighting (and lights) were designed by Dave Watson.
Most of this season’s holiday shows are closing on Sunday, but Santasia runs through Christmas night. Demand is sure to be high for its final performances, so make your reservations right away…or you’ll have to wait a whole year till Santasia is (I hope I hope!) back for its not-to-be-missed 10th Anniversary edition.
Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
December 18, 2008