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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Ham and Fruitcake Among This Year's
Holiday Entertainment Offerings

Also see David's review of Cinderella

Ham for the Holidays
Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch
Photo: Heather Trimm
A holiday season staple in metro-Seattle, Ham for the Holidays (this year subtitled A Lard Day's Night) hits a high this season as intrepid, veteran comic entertainers Lisa Koch, Peggy Platt, Michael Oakes and actor/pianist D.J. Gommels revel through some sketches worthy of the vintage years of "Saturday Night Live" or "The Carol Burnett Show." For the nearly packed Wednesday night crowd at Theatre Off Jackson, it was a love-fest and a half, and the two-hour show clipped by briskly.

Lisa Koch and her director-choreographer brother David wrote the evening's five sketches, all amusing and timed to not wear out their welcome, while interspersed with vapid video clips that are so bad they are hilarious to behold. In act one, an-all polka group, naturally called "The Polka Dots," courts disaster by performing for a holiday party full of morticians, and sing a medley of songs celebrating the funeral industry. This amusing if rather mild kick-off leads into a goofy game-show spoof called "Who's Your Deity?" with two amiable audience members designated contestants to guess whether "celebs" Harvey Fierstein (Gommels), Kirstie Alley (Platt) and Albus Dumbledore (Oaks) are giving true or false answers to religious-themed questions, as hosted by Koch's side-splitting old-school nun character sister Mary Labia. The act climaxes with a performance of the newly regrouped Sequim gay chorus, now known as S.Q.U.E.E.L., and, as ever, a knowing-wink at such larger groups as Seattle's own Men's Chorus. The parody lyrics by the Koch siblings are golden as ever here.

Act two seems like it could hardly get funnier as Michelle Bachmann is put in her place with "Bachmann Christmas Overdrive," totally stolen by Michael Oaks whose infirm, incontinent Nancy Regan is as politically incorrect as it is hellaciously hilarious. But then, the troupe serves up its heartiest hilarity of all as Platt and Koch's enduring comic alters Mama Euomi and daughter Whynotta Spudd go at it, this time as Mama takes command of their latest charity fundraiser movie spoof "Double-Wide Indemnity," which savages all things film noir and/or Hitchcock. Platt's Mama is a sight to behold done up to look like a cross between Lana Turner and Divine, Koch is a riotous gimp of a cockney maid who keeps forgetting to limp, Gommels gets guffaws as Cary Grant, and Oaks again shows his comic mettle as a fey entertainer enlisted to play the Fred MacMurray prototype insurance investigator. Now understand, the Christmas content in this broadly delightful show is minimal, but the laughs are plentiful. In short, Ham for the Holidays—A Lard Day's Night is just the slice of holiday hokum!

Ham for the Holidays—A Lard Day's Night runs through December 24, 2011 at Theatre-Off Jackson, 409 7. Ave S at Jackson in the International district. For show times and tickets go to www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.

Fruitcake Blues had a one weekend only run at Redmond's cozy Second Story Rep theatre, and was a co-production by SSR and the Pacific NW Cabaret Association, starring four names synonymous with the local cabaret scene—Arnaldo-Drag Chanteuse! (and his non-drag self as well), Judy Ann Moulton, Joanne Klein, and singer/songwriter/pianist Victor Janusz—in a director-less evening of holiday-themed material, which would have benefitted greatly by a director and a continuity/theme writer to help the foursome make the show a more cohesive, flowing experience rather than the pleasant grab bag of bits it turned out to be.

Arnaldo, even minus the exclamation point, has the poise, presence and voice that has won him a name in the cabaret world well beyond Seattle. All of his material, including a saucy "Santa Baby," "That's What I Want for Christmas," "I Don't Remember Christmas" and "The 12 Days After Christmas," was top drawer stuff, and he handled it effortlessly. All that lacked in this show was a piece of material he has not all ready wowed with us with in past solo shows. The jubilant Ms. Moulton offered a warmly felt and soothingly sung pair of songs dedicated to her own cabaret idol, Ann Hampton Callaway, "This Christmas and "God Bless My Family," then tickled the crowd imitating a toddler singing "Freddie, The Little Fir Tree," written by her aunt and long-ago recorded by singing cowboy Gene Autry. It would have seemed natural that Moulton should sing a solo of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," given her own acclaimed tribute show "Judy Sings Judy" is a tribute to that great star, but instead it was less effectively used as a group number. Something a writer/director would have rectified.

Ms. Klein brought her Jewish heritage (and some altered lyrics) to the "Charlie Brown Christmas" carol "Christmas Time is Here" and romped with Janusz through his saucy song "Bahamas," celebrating holiday times in warmer climes, but her "Sabbath Prayer" with Moulton seemed out of place and some piano pedal difficulties impeded an otherwise admirable "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" If only someone would have suggested this Northwest version of Elaine Stritch take on Jason Robert Brown's "Surabaya Santa" she'd have had her own showstopper. Janusz doffed his hat musically to the late Karen Carpenter with a dreamy "Merry Christmas, Darling" and shone on his own sardonically flavored song "I Forget, I Forget ..." while serving the other three vocalists well on the keyboard. The foursome was rather forced on the title song, but made playful fun together on a parody "White Christmas." The end result was an evening of good will and good cheer that felt like a fruitcake with some essential ingredients left out of the mix.

Second Story Repertory is going strong with a much buzzed about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat through December 22, 2011 at Redmond Town Center. For more information, visit www.secondstoryrep.org.



- David Edward Hughes



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