"A White Christmas"

Derby Dinner Playhouse

By Michael W. Stout

WARNING: If you are expecting the likenesses of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney performing at Connecticut's Holiday Inn when you head to Derby Dinner Playhouse's production of "A White Christmas," then you will be in for a shock with more voltage than a faulty strand of Christmas lights. A mere comparison of this production to the classic movie of the same title (sans an "A") would cause Irving Berlin to roll over in his grave like a big, fat, succulent rotisserie turkey. And if you're already annoyed by the corny puns in the first two sentences of this review, then I would suggest you pass on this production and attend the DDP's presentation of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" as part of the Children's Musical Theatre.

"A White Christmas" is a kitschy, tacky and gaudy frolicking holiday musical chock full of puns, sequins, bad political jokes, Lucy and Ethel comparisons, a cow, a cactus, a few traditional Christmas carols and an avalanche of tongue-in-cheek tunes one is sure are first-cousins to "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." Unforgettable characters sure to grab and suck your funny bone dry include Santa's elves Stan and Ollie (yes, picture Laurel and Hardy at the North Pole), Mrs. Claus and Elmer and Margaret, deli owners celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. The abundantly talented ensemble cast - obviously possessing little self-pride - includes a Christmas "Grand Ole Opry" phantom, singing shoppers, angels and New York theater performers and the holly, jolly big cheese himself, Santa Claus.

The premise of this production finds Stan, Ollie and Mrs. C in search of Santa, who is MIA due to the rising mercury, melting snow and all-around lack of good cheer. The search leads the bumbling holiday trio to New York City, both past and present, Macy's Dept. Store and a New Mexico Country Western karaoke bar. This production is so unusually bizarre that you'll think the cast members of "Saturday Night Live" and "Hee Haw" met at the North Pole for a face-off for the corniest Christmas skit ever! If the members of the Griswald family were real people, this would definitely be their idea of fine Christmas theater!

Although you might be convinced your dinner is destined to reappear by the time the intermission rolls around and you're tempted to walk right past the restrooms and the gift shop and jolt for the front door, the second act well redeems the first. Highlights include a moving performance of "The Christmas Box" full of love by the real star of the show, Stan, played by Bill Theisen and a heartwarmingly funny duet titled "The Grass is Always Greener (Snow is Always Whiter)" by Mrs. Claus and Margaret (played phenomenally by Melissa Combs and Jana Auspland respectively). Other crowd-pleasers include a rockin' "Run, Rudolph, Run" number complete with a pint-sized "King" (Elvis Presley, of course) and a Patsy Cline-esque rendition of "Please Come Home for Christmas" by Mrs. C.

All in all, DDP's "A White Christmas" is a quirky but enjoyable production that will insult your comic appreciation but have you tapping your toes along with the fresh Christmas music and dance numbers. This show is an unforgettable and virtually indescribable production which will be good fodder for conversation around the water cooler the next day at work, but unless you have a glacier-sized sense of humor, you'd better put on your pajamas, grab some hot chocolate and put Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" in the DVD player.

Derby Dinner Playhouse's "A White Christmas" will run through December 31.