Regifting

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  December 12, 2008

Lower your brow, if not your expectations, as you fly the sleigh across the river for a mix of classic cinema and Gold Dusted drag in All About Christmas Eve, the latest entrée of ham-fisted fusion cuisine from Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans. Boston is the Tinseltown in this Christmas transfer of the Oscar-winning 1950 Joseph L. Mankiewicz film in which Bette Davis immortally cautioned folks, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night." Landry's Margo Channing, her coiffure a shoulder-length halo of auburn curls, her painted lips a permanent twist approximating Davis's signature sneer, reflects, along with other familiars from the famous film, on the road that has brought ruthless Eve Harrington from stage-door obsequiousness to receipt of what is here (in honor of the Orphans' subterranean Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts) the Ramrod Society Award for her bouncy ride in a Christmas vehicle titled No, No, Nativity.

Well, spare the Ramrod and spoil the inner naughty child. Except for the disco-choreographed sacrilege that is No, No, Nativity (worth the price of admission), there are few surprises, either substantive or technical, in All About Christmas Eve, most of which is lifted straight from the film and sent to winter camp. But the show is as puerile and lively as most Orphans fare, and Landry, in pushing Davis's Channing over the top, proves that this is territory in which measurement is exponential. There is a twist in Judge Brackish critic Addison DeWitt's exposure of the title character (and in her reaction to it), but devoted fans of the film will find themselves on the street where they live, with just a few new scenic landmarks and, of course, a merrily degraded sense of "there goes the neighborhood."

The cartoon scenery is amusing, and since Channing is starring not in an ante-bellum melodrama but in a holiday travesty called Party on the Pole, both she and Penny Champayne's Eve get to appear in fur bikinis accessorized by reindeer antlers. I was disappointed by the relative lack of those V-necked, off-the-shoulder numbers that make the women in the film look like linebackers. Then again, Afrodite, as playwright's wife Karen Richards, is an improvement on Celeste Holm in the interest department, and a scene in which she does mimic battle with her own voiceover is hilarious. As usual, Champayne introduces subtlety — as rare in Orphan shows as kugel at the Christmas table — to her characterization. And Olive Another brings a loopy slovenliness, not to mention a moustache, to Channing factotum Birdie that might make Thelma Ritter sue.

Ritter ought to have to belly up to the bar behind Dr. Seuss's estate, which has perhaps been fed enough roast beast stuffed with greenbacks to quell its outrage at the show-biz boulder being rolled across the beloved children's author's quirky holiday-heist tome in the overblown Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. The slim 1957 volume that turned Scrooge into a paunchy red-eyed ostrich for whom Yuletide is an unwelcome tsunami washing up gifts and good cheer on the snowy shores of Whoville was in 1966 memorably turned into a 26-minute entertainment directed by Chuck Jones and featuring the voice of Boris Karloff. That animated approximation, which offered Albert Hague's slinky musical McNugget "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" along with one other song with lyrics by Dr. Seuss, got the job done so admirably that it has turned up on TV for 42 years. But why stay home when you can dress up the kids and mosey them down to the Wang for 80 minutes of blandly tuneful overkill?

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Related: Review: The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet, Play by play: July 17, 2009, Play by Play: December 4, 2009, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, Music, Party on the Pole,  More more >
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