Director: Shaun Loeser
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
After running for 16 years in Los Angeles, Santasia brings its tired charms to New York City. It is a sketch, musical, and short film comedy revue that runs a half-hour too long with no intermission. Many of the jokes are outdated and rooted in adolescent humor, with several sketches that should have been cut to make a stronger presentation. From a promising beginning, the show ultimately drags and disappoints, including too much of what the creators surely deem a good thing.
Santa Claus opens the show, giving cards to the good boys and girls in the crowd. It is a fun, joyful beginning that engages the audience. The opening group number is a choreographed snow day that devolves from a snowball fight to peeing in the snow, to fighting with the peed-on-snow, to a downright brawl with a snow shovel set to the most appropriate soundtrack, O Fortuna. Blackout, and cut to the first short film. It’s claymation of a man with a #1-dad-coffee-mug, attempting to put together his child’s new bicycle under the Christmas tree. He fails and he fails, and then he drinks and he drinks, and Santa comes by after he passes out, to save the day in a quite unexpected fashion.
The next live number is an adaptation of A Chorus Line, as six children waiting in line to sit on Santa’s lap sing their version of I Hope I Get It. Of the six people on stage, six are white men. Five are playing little boys, and one is a little girl who pines for an Easy-Bake Oven. In the grand tradition of all-male comedy troupes like Monty Python, but without the originality or wit, Santasia employs cross-dressing and gender humor that hasn’t been clever for years.
Several threads weave throughout the production, tying the individual sketches into a cohesive whole, and occasionally offering holiday sentimentality and honest emotion amid a sea of superficial jokes. Each actor takes one moment between scenes to tell his heart-warming Christmas memory to the audience, and these sweet stories humanize performers who otherwise risk coming off as ignorant or regressive.
A lack of professionalism is apparent after a striptease dance number that leaves a pair of tear-away shorts hanging from the downstage fly space for the next several scenes, with no acknowledgment of their presence by any of the performers onstage. A lack of cultural awareness is apparent in the complete lack of diversity on stage or screen. About two-thirds of the way through, in one of the short films or ad parodies, one black woman gets about 10 seconds of screen time. Earlier in the show, there is a joke about a gay elf that feels about 20 years old (and may very well be).
There are several strengths and well-crafted fragments in this production. There are sharply written lines in addition to the slew of potty humour, and several of the short films would make for stellar and potentially viral YouTube videos. Unfortunately, the majority of the show is made for a middle-aged white audience with a low bar for what’s considered smart and funny. With updates, edits, and cuts, Santasia could be a four- or five-star production, but in its current form, it’s just too long and too immature.
Runs until 23 December 2015 | Image: Contributed