REVIEW: Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer

  
  

The Queer Meaning of Christmas: Always Be Yourself

  
  

Rudolph finale by David as Joan

  
Hell in a Handbag Productions presents
   
Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer
   
Book/Lyrics by David Cerda 
Music by
David Cerda w/ Scott Lamberty
Directed by
Derek Czaplewski
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
through Jan 1  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Hell In a Handbag Productions have run their queerlicious holiday spoof, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer for 13 years, yet it’s Christmas theme could not be more current or relevant than if it were written yesterday. Directed by Derek Czaplewski, this Santa Claus (Michael Hampton) is as Scrooge as they come, running the North Pole like a sweatshop. His terrorized elf population scrambles for job security since he’s outsourced most of the toy manufacturing to India. To generate extra income, Santa cynically develops a series of reality TV Mrs. Claus loses her balance. by David as Joanshows for NPN (North Pole Network). Sam the Snowman (Christopher Carpenter) lays out the whole scene with casual and realistic world-weariness, just right for this particular recessionary season.

Into this milieu, Jane (Danni Smith) and Tom Donner (Chad) give birth to Rudolph (Alex Grelle), a sweet little reindeer with an instinctual love for feminine attire. Fresh from the womb, Rudolph can already spot Chanel and Prada on other women and lusts in his heart to wear them himself. But mom and dad fear gender non-conformity just won’t go over well in the gossipy and economically strapped environs of Christmastown. So, they force Rudolph into overalls and trot him out to the reindeer games to put a little butch into his act.

The big butch of the reindeer games, Coach Comet (David Besky), uses his position to put the moves on his young reindeer charges. But, like any classic closet case, he – like everyone else – rejects Rudolph when his unstoppable femme side emerges. While reviling base hypocrisy is de rigueur element for LGBTQ comedy, Hell in a Handbag’s spry and professional cast keeps to the situation fresh, the jokes well-timed and humanely on message. David Cerda’s humorous script holds up fabulously well; it helps that the original Christmas cartoon is also about being yourself, no matter what societal pressures deny who and what you are. Cerda and crew boost the original cartoon with a ton of salacious queer fun and Brigitte Ditmars’ choreography makes the most of a tight stage at Mary’s Attic.

     
Trailer Trash Barbie by David as Joan Meet Coach Comet by David as Joan
The Dragbeast! The Abominable Dragbeast (David Cerda, center) massacre's a Lady Gag_0007 North Pole Smackdown by David as Joan

Rudolph loses the town’s support but gains a reindeer girlfriend, Clarice (Jennifer Shine), who regales the audience with how HOT his red hose make her. Then there’s Rudolph’s ally Herbie, the elf who wants to be a dentist, who Dan Hickey executes with nostalgic and dorky perfection. Once this pair make it to the Island of Misfit Toys, the audience not only gets to revel in Chad’s exact portrayal of Charlie-in-the-Box, but also the Half-Naked Cowboy (Chad Ramsey), Trailer Trash Barbie (Terry McCarthy) and the Choo-Choo Train (Barbara Figgins) with square wheels.

That Cerda, as the Abominable Drag Beast, tries her grab at fame in a Gaga-esque meat dress, while Ed Jones goes beyond the beyond as Santa’s drunken wife, puts the cherry and nuts on top of Hell in a Handbag’s confection. It’s so bad it’s good for you. But most of all, for all its celebration of pervy practices, Rudolph, the Red-Hosed Reindeer restores a little innocent sweetness to a holiday made hard, jaded and meaningless by rampant commercialism. Always be yourself—that’s the best Christmas message I’ve heard in a long time and something meant to last the whole year round.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
   
   

Christmastown! by David as Joan

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“Poseiden” extends again – now closing Sept. 27th

Photo by Rick Aguilar- Must give photo credit for publication

 

Hell in a Handbag Productions presents:

POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical

Book & Lyrics by David Cerda
w/add’l material by Cheryl Snodgrass
Music by David Cerda & Scott Lamberty
Directed by Matthew Gunnels
Where: The Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division Street
Runs: Extended through Sept. 27th  (Buy Tickets)

From Hell in a Handbag’s press release:

At a time when grants have seemingly disappeared and donations are diminishing, and major Chicago theater companies our sending our emergency requests for cash, Hell in a Handbag Productions, through sheer force of will, has produced a Jeff recommended, critically acclaimed, musical comedy with a cast of 23 and a capsizing ship on a budget that many those same theaters use for costumes alone, and the Chicago theater going public has responded favorably with their support. "We were fortunate enough to surround ourselves with a cast and crew that really believed in the show", says David Cerda, Artistic Director of the company. "We took a ‘if we build it, they will come’ approach and thank God, it seems to be working".

All photos by Rick Aguilar

POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical

is both a musical parody and a loving homage to the classic 1972 film, The Poseidon Adventure, the grandmother of all disaster films. The play celebrates and lampoons the beloved cult classic through comedy and music. When a tidal wave capsizes the SS Poseidon luxury liner on New Year’s Eve, a group of scrappy passengers must climb to the bottom of the ship (now above them) before the ship sinks. The perilous journey of these colorful characters, both humorous and tragic, makes for an edge-of-your-seat adventure. Watch the story unfold with a party of hardcore Poseidon Adventure fans who provide personal commentary and touching insight on how film resonates in our collective conscious, resulting in very real shared experiences.

This week’s Chicago show openings and ticket specials

Chicago Skyline at night

AND THEN THERE WERE NONEIndependent Stars Theatre

CUSTER’S LAST STAND FESTIVAL OF THE ARTSPiccolo Theatre

INTO THE WIND Gorilla Tango Theatre

JONCollaboraction Theatre

PAUL’S GLASSESGorilla Tango Theatre

POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical Hell in a Handbag Productions

SKETCHTOPIAVictory Gardens Biograph Theater

SODOMITES!!! A MUSICAL OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS Annoyance Theatre

STEEL MAGS LETS YOU DOWN EASYChicago Center for the Performing Arts

 

For special ticket offers, click on “Read more”

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