Santasia – A Holiday Comedy is back at Sherman Oaks’ Whitefire Theatre for its 18th annual potpourri of wacky Benny Hill-like skits, SNL-ready videos, Broadway-parodying production numbers, nostalgic recollections of Christmases past, and a whole lot of drag, the best possible news for audiences seeking holiday comedy rated R-for-language and H-for-heart.

 Co-writers (and longtime Santasians) Brandon Loeser, Shaun Loeser, and Lon Gowan are joined this year by the equally talented Darren Mangler, Tony Nunes, and Jim O’Brien, and if there’s not a biological female among them, no matter. These comedy whizzes gender-bend to do Monty Python or Tyler Perry proud.

Christmas-themed skits have the Three Wise Men arguing over whose gift is best for baby Jesus and a very pregnant Virgin Mary revealing her child’s divine parentage to an unsuspecting Joseph on The Jerry Springer Show, while another pair of sketches spoof Christmas traditions (opening presents and decorating the house) Santasia style.

Filmed segment include a “Brokeback Igloo” movie trailer (Jack and Ennis are now fishing buddies experiencing forbidden love), a Stranger Things spoof to do Winona and her Netflix brood proud, and “Pulp Christmas,” a foul-mouthed holiday take on the Tarantino classic.

 Broadway buffs get treated to spoofs of Chicago (“Cell Block Tango” becomes “Snowbock Tango”), A Chorus Line (tiny tots make Christmas wishes in “God I Hope I Get It”),  and Hamilton (the title rap now sings the praises of Jolly Old Saint Nick).

 As for those in search of near-naked out-of-shape male flesh, a Full Monty takeoff (pun intended) has a sextet of Santasia “studs” doing their Chippendales best) to Tom Jones’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On.”

The brothers Loesers, Gowan, Mangler, Nunes, and O’Brien aren’t afraid to let things get personal in a series of childhood Christmas memory monlogs likely to inspire as many tears as chuckles.

 Last but not least, there’s drag to do Benny Hill and Monty Python proud, most notably when the cast dons miniskirts and Christmas-themed bikini tops to dance (semi-)gracefully to the oh-so-chic sounds of Dimitri From Paris’s “Stylish Girl” and in the troupe’s signature “Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy” grand finale.

 Indeed, the Santasia gang has so extensive a repertoire of Christmas treats old and new and frequently potty-mouthed that they’ve added an extra half hour to their original ninety minutes, and an honest-to-goodness ten intermission for potty breaks.

Shaun Loeser once again directs with holiday pizzazz in addition to designing the show’s Christmas-trees-and-lights-filled set, with choreographer Tania Pearson-Loeser and assistant choreographer Rachel Loeser tailoring their considerable talents to their cast’s entertainingly not-ready-for-Broadway dance gifts.

 Kudos go too to musical director/composer Stacey Quinealty and assistant musical director Julie Dolan for whipping the cast into vocal shape, costume designer Pearson-Loeser and assistant costumer (Rachel) Loeser for a whole bunch of imaginative Christmas gems, Shaun and Tania Loeser’s multitude of holiday props, lighting designer Wynn Zucchero for making all of the above look even spiffier, and most especially to animator Michael Granberry for his equal parts nostalgic/hilarious animated claymation shorts including “San Andreas Snowman” and “Penguins Don’t Fly.”

 Santasia – A Holiday Comedy is produced by Shaun and Brandon Loeser. Colin Follenweider and Adam Hart are co-producers and Lon Gowan, Andy Palmer, and Wynn Zucchero are assistant producers.

When the show you’re doing sells out eighteen Decembers and counting, you must be doing something right. The folks at Santasia – A Holiday Comedy are doing just that, once again gifting L.A. audiences with the holiday season’s most crowd-pleasing blend of comedy and heart.

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Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

–Steven Stanley
December 20, 2017


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