Any shows currently running can be fun for adults, whether or not you have little ones in tow, but there are three Christmas shows specifically written for adults where you’re going to hear a few F-bombs. One I’ve already mentioned in this publication, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, has what I described as “a marvelous portrayal of Scrooge by Robert Insana” in which the language of Charles Dickens’ Victorian classic tale A CHRISTMAS CAROL collides with contemporary language, through this retelling of the age-old Christmas story of greed, false love, and squandered redemption. Presented by ART of WNY (American Repertory Theatre) Dec 7 – Dec 23, 2023 Thu – Fri 7:30, Sat 5:00 pm at the Compass Performing Arts space, 545 Elmwood Avenue. (716) 697-0837 artofwny.org Runtime: About two hours with one intermission
If you can only see one version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL this season, you’ll get the entire story with most of the plot points (Marley’s ghost, the three spirits, the Cratchits including Tiny Tim, Scrooge’s conversion) intact but with some “worldly philosophy” thrown in.
Another fine show for adults this season continues into the new year and that’s THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS, a holiday comedy by Ginna Hoben, directed by Jay Desiderio, starring Lisa Ludwig with musical numbers (and the occasional SFX) provided by Kerrykate Abel Smith (vocals) and Nathanial Higgins (piano). It opened on December 2 and runs through January 7, shows run most Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Dinner at 6:00, Show at 7:30, Matinee dinner at 1:00, Show at 2:30. All at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre at Bobby J’s, 204 Como Park Blvd. Cheektowaga Call for reservations (716) 395-3207 information at mybobbyjs.com Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission
The premise is that Mary, an actor home from New York City to be with her parents in Ohio for Thanksgiving, sees her fiancé (who told her he had eaten bad chicken and was too sick to travel) at the NYC Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in full lip-lock with a woman who works in his office. Mary then walks us through her following twelve months of rebound dating, remembering the adage “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince.” It’s easy to follow with lots of context as you move through the year.
And it’s not just the dates she has to contend with, it’s her family, especially her mom, her match-making aunt, not to mention her baby sister’s upcoming wedding (and, of course, Mary’s going to be the maid-of-honor). I thought this show was going to be more of a stand-up routine, you know, like a 90-minute Netflix special, featuring a comedienne center stage with a hand-held mic. Instead, it’s presented as a fully staged one-woman play, with the other (unseen) characters’ dialog presented by Mary.
Lisa Ludwig has the physical stamina and “larger than life” presence to pull this off, and on the day we saw her, it was actually her second appearance, yet she seemed to get stronger as the evening went on. One of the charming aspects was that, after each bad date, she hung a small symbolic ornament on the tree center stage, such as a small pair of pink boxing gloves and a small guitar. There are lots of such little comic touches.
And then there’s BLUE XMAS starring local chanteuse and comedienne Charmagne Chi who often, as they say in comedy, “works blue” usually performing risqué routines layered with curse words. While unlike some comics who lean on that as a crutch, for Ms. Chi, it’s simply a way to introduce new material. Having said that, this show is NOT for children. As stated in the publicity: “Leave the kids at home for a saucy, swearing, singing good time. Seriously, do not bring children. This is Christmassy AF.”
THE BASICS: BLUE XMAS, THE CHARMAGNE CHI CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, by Charmagne Chi, directed and choreographed by Doug Weyand, assisted by Philip Farugia at the piano, with a cast of seven, opened on December 14 and runs through December 30, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30. No performance Sat 12/16 but there is an added performance Monday December 18, all shows in the Alleyway Theatre Cabaret space, 1 Curtain Up Alley (enter from the alley, adjacent to Shea’s north wall), (716) 852-2600 alleyway.com
Runtime: About two hours with one intermission
If you know Charmagne Chi, you know that no topic is out of bounds, especially anything to do with sex. But it’s all presented in the context of SNL-worthy skits (and sometimes better than SNL skits). While the publicity states that this is a “workshop” production, it was better staged, more polished, and well-choreographed than many “finished” productions I’ve seen. One reason for that is that Chi sweats the details. I know that she starts working on her shtick for the annual Artie Awards a year in advance; her husband told me after BLUE XMAS that she’d been planning this show for years, and I myself once took her five-week comedy writing workshop and the big takeaway there was to start early, re-write often, and always find ways to insert more jokes into your limited time.
And the beneficiary of all this hard work taking place behind the scenes is the audience, who, on opening night, hooted and hollered with glee. And what a cast she assembled. Sam Crystal, Nicholas Lama, Collin McKee, Jen Mysliwy, and Dave Spychalski who all “get” Charmagne and she gives them plenty of great material to shine. And shine they do.
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