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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

2009 Christmas Wrap Up: Ham for the Holidays: Lard Potion #9 and Christmas with the Crawfords

See David's Holiday Review Round Up Part 1

Ham for the Holidays: Lard Potion #9
Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch
There is never any threat of having a blue Christmas with venerable comic zanies Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt bringing their rib-tickling antics to the stage of the Theater Off Jackson. This year's Ham for the Holidays: Lard Potion #9 directed with exuberant panache by David Koch finds the pair embracing many of their familiar comic creations, aided and abetted by droll D.J. Gommels (deftly doubling on the keyboards) and campy Michael Oaks, who serve as the Harvey Korman and Tim Conway to Lisa and Peggy's Carol and Vicki.

As always geared to gay and Northwest sensibilities, we have a the Colonel (Koch) and Chenille doling out retro-pop at an uncompleted Tukwila light rail station to kick things off before moving on to the whole foursome as the tiny but tenacious (and metro sexual) Sequim Gay Men's Chorus. Platt is simply amazing in an "All in the Family Feud" sketch as Archie Bunker, and Koch holds her own as dingbat Edith, with gay audience members joining in as the rival "family."

I am always most partial to the pair's mainstay country western pair Wynotta (Koch) and Euomi (Platt) Spudd, accompanied by Gommels as one (or is it two) of Mama Euomi's many husbands Sonny Cash, Jr., and Oaks in hilarious drag as a tawdry neighbor and entrant in the Spudds' version of "American Idol" reset in their trailer park. Lisa even sneaks in a touching version of "River," reminding us all what a soulful vocalist she is.

One holiday show that could be served up (and not feel reheated) any time of the year, Ham for the Holidays: Lard Potion #9 is a welcome reminder of the spirit of comedy-variety television, long since disappeared from the airwaves.

Ham for the Holidays: Lard Potion #9 runs through December 27, Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S., Seattle; $15-$23 (206-340-1049 or www.theatreoffjackson.org).

Photo: Sage Alexander

Joan Crawford recently rose from the grave at Burien Little Theatre's Christmas with the Crawfords, a show that began as a drag-queen laden sleeper several years back in San Francisco and has now been seen in several cities during the holidays. Despite game efforts from the large cast, the show itself, created by Richard Winchester and written by Mark Sargent, is a haphazardly devised mélange of old movie lines, songs and inappropriate, random celebrities who happen to show up the night of Joan Crawford's infamous 1944 Christmas radio broadcast from her Brentwood Hills mansion.

Dave Clelland (a scary Joan if I ever saw one) terrorizes young Christina and Christopher (Brad Walker and Toni Guidry, respectively, in the productions best realized turns) as the broadcast approaches, and many Hollywood faves show up, mistaking JC's place for Gary Cooper's digs next door. While it is doubtful La Crawford ever had any real encounters with the likes of Shirley Temple, Carmen Miranda, Hattie McDaniel, Gloria Swanson or Ethel Merman, they all take over for a number or two, and director Steve Cooper can't manage to instill much sense of believable impersonation in anyone. Inept costume designs by Shari Barr, along with really terrible wigs don't help matters. There are good voices on the stage but little vocal stylization, most obvious in Jackie Graybill's lightweight warbling as Judy Garland. Russ Kay is made to look like John Wayne in drag as Ethel Merman and captures none of her vocal or physical quirks. Worst of all, Bette Davis doesn't appear but her character Baby Jane does, ironically cast with a biological woman (Laura York) in the role, defeating the camp factor once again.

Mark Williams, saddled with the less well-known personality of gossip doyenne Hedda Hopper is actually rather charming, and Ms. York returns with some grand eye-rolling as a not bad Gloria Swanson. You can't really blame this cast at any rate. The show might never work, but it definitely should not be attempted without a stage full of savvy female impersonators. Even should the chance arise to see such a mounting, I think I'd rather not ever spend another Christmas with the Crawfords.

Christmas with the Crawfords closed Sunday December 20. Next up at Burien Little Theatre, Arne Zaslove's popular fifties rock and roll version of A Midsummer Night's Dream February 10, 2010-March 21, 2010. For more information, visit www.burienlittletheartre.org.

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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