Regional Reviews: Seattle
A Karen Carpenter Christmas at
A hit in the Bay area, A Karen Carpenter Christmas has made a welcome Yuletide trip to the Pacific Northwest for a limited run at The Richard Hugo House, and it is one slice of holiday entertainment that is not to be missed. Writer/Director Tom Ross keeps the show short, sweet and satisfying.
A mildly satirical, largely affectionate tribute to celebrity holiday TV specials of the sixties and seventies, A Karen Carpenter Christmas supposes that Karen and her brother Richard did one of their own. Such likely suspects as Barbra Streisand, Ethel Merman, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert, and even Alvin the Chipmunk are the special guests in a holiday musical offering, allegedly telecast from their suburban Downey, California homestead (complete with a pop-in from their mother). The music is a mix of Christmas tunes and songs associated with KC and her co-stars.
What makes this "special" truly special is the dead-on and ever so sincere performance of Katie Guthorn as Karen. Her voice at times sounding eerily like the late, lamented pop icon, Guthorn has the look, smile and wholesome public persona of Karen Carpenter down pat. There is a potentially uneasy moment when KC, after celebrity visits from "Ghosts" of TV specials past (Alvin) and present (Streisand), wonders if the reason she isn't being visited by a spirit from the future is because she has no future, but luckily this tangent isn't explored into dicey territory. And Guthorn's greatest strength is actually touching us as she revives such Carpenter classics as "Rainy Days and Mondays," "Superstar," and of course, "Merry Christmas, Darling."
Though the other cast members don't as successfully evoke the celebrities they impersonate, Jo-Carol Davidson has Merman's boisterous delivery and bombastic personality nailed, and a fairly good Babs too, aided by a sixties vintage Streisand wig and an unerring ability to cross her eyes to comic perfection. Steffanos X is a hilarious Tom Jones, though understandably less memorable as Herb Alpert. Music director Morey Goldstein makes a droll Richard Carpenter, and his fellow musician Joshua Raoul Brody is all cuddly charm as Bob, a musician with a crush on Karen.
A Karen Carpenter Christmas is a rare example of a show that I wouldn't have minded there being more of, and is highly recommended - as entertainment, and because producer Rene Rudge is donating a portion of the shows ticket sales to Seattle's Lifelong Aids Alliance organization.
A Karen Carpenter Christmas at The Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Avenue, Seattle, through December 22. For reservations call Ticket Window at (206) 324-2744.- David-Edward Hughes