EndTimes Productions’ NAKED HOLIDAYS is a sometimes funny, sometimes bewildering musical/sketch comedy/burlesque show that pushes the envelope with rauncy material and (no spoiler) a bunch of naked people. Some sketches are rock solid while others lack punchlines and buttons to complete them. It goes back and forth throughout the evening: “Ooh, that one’s clever… [sound of crickets]… hahahahaha…. Eh.” Perhaps my inner grinch is too harshly judging the writing of a show called Naked Holidays. Because although some material flopped, the night as a whole is a chaotic, balls-to-the-wall “F-you” to the holiday season. And yet it kind of makes you feel warm and fuzzy because you’re seeing a holiday show during the holiday season with a cast that’s relentless (and shirtless) in providing non-stop entertainment for two hours.
Or at least for 1 hour 45 minutes. After the most aggressive house speech in recent memory, there’s a rough initial fifteen or so minutes. The ensemble rather disconnectedly meanders through an opening where each actor, in his own world, shouts out ideas for this year’s holiday show. And sadly, I couldn’t hear any of the words to the first musical number because the instruments drowned out the vocalists.
Luckily there is humor abounds in a sketch called Weredeer, in which Kelly Riley and Dave Chura shine as two men stumbling upon a creepy bar. “Hahahah, what’s with the Pentecost?” Chura not-so-nonchalantly demands of the bar patrons.
The line delivered by host Jesse Gabriel directly before Dad Came Out this Christmas (“For many, homosexuals is not just a college thing”) is funnier than anything that happens in that sketch. Sleigh Ride is entertaining because it perfectly combines music and comedy (and great, simple choreography for the men of the cast) while How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Holidays is a gauche, frenzied mess that’s overstuffed with characters and violence... although Jesus saying “Go bless yourself” instead of “Go fuck yourself” is a brilliant moment that almost saves it.
I’ve Got Your Love to Keep Me Warm is wonderfully sung by Alexandra Nahodil but it doesn’t fit within the campy, over-the-top world of this show. While The Streaking Sketch - like a few others - lacks a punchline, Beautiful is hands-down the best scene of the night. Chronicling the revenge of lonely, isolated Christmas characters like Rudolph and the Abominable Snowman, it’s the bloodiest rendition of the Xtina Aguilera ballad ever staged. It simply gets better and better as it marches towards its gory conclusion.
Post-intermission, a drag rendition of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas by the very funny Chris Johnston hits home because of the audience interaction, something that could have enhanced many other segments. Include us more!
White Rabbit shows us Santa’s acid trip and while it’s certainly unpredictable, I wanted to see visits from elves and Ms. Claus and reindeer in ways we never would have expected them to behave. Instead, we get arbitrary yet beautifully designed massive Chinese puppets.
Too often, the creators mistake “random and big” for comedy. These actors are ready to play and if the material was further developed, sharpened and cleaned up (in terms of structure, not content), Naked Holidays would be a must-see holiday event.
Having said that, by the time the show reached its outrageously effective finale, I watched in awe and I surrendered. I gasped, I grabbed my date’s arm, I shook my head (am I really seeing this?!), I applauded. In an immaculately staged sequence, two company members partake in a serious conversation while actor after actor after actor engages, completely nude, in various activities in the background. These activities get more and more absurd until everyone’s playing Naked Limbo.. and I threw my pen to the ground because I knew I wasn’t taking any more notes. The anticipation of what would happen next in this finale was sensational.
Now that the pen is back in my hand and I am attempting to provide a letter grade for Naked Holidays, it’s more difficult than I imagined. There are just so many elements involved in this one theatrical outing, one letter grade will not sum up my attitude towards the night as a whole. So here are three:
BOLDNESS OF PERFORMERS: A+
Tickets and info: http://endtimesproductions.org/2012/naked-holidays-2012/