Once again I was delighted with the over-the-top Christmas romp of Santasia - Holiday Comedy, now showing at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.
If it’s wintertime, it’s Santasia time. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience that will delight and dissuade any holiday negativity out there. Always a hit here in Southern California, it is now a hit Off-Broadway as well. It is a chorus of six men romping around the stage in various Christmas/holiday themed stories that will have you laughing, tearing and excited to be there.
Santasia is not a silly little production about Santa, the holidays or religion. It is a very well-staged show that draws us into the ridiculousness of our overzealous need to celebrate a time of the year that many find overwhelming. This production is cleverly written and performed by men in elf and Santa suits.
The show opens with a very enticing twist which puts you immediately into the mood of the evening. A very jolly Santa comes out and hands out special ‘gifts’ to random audience members. It’s a great touch and a wonderful precursor of what is to unfold. The stage is a delightful combination of wonderfully decorated Christmas scenes. In one area is the façade of a gingerbread house, complete with all the obligatory lights it can bear. At the other end is a warm and cozy chair positioned in front of a raging fire; just the right spot for the sentimental stories each actor tells us of their childhood holiday memories. Decorated trees, falling snow and a plastic penguin are all included on this well-packed stage. Then there is the cast. Not just any guys, but a cast that can act, sing and dance. Please include a lot of humor as well; they are masters at having the audience roaring with laughter. Enjoy and savor every moment as we settle in with a full plate of Christmas cheer for all.
We are entertained by creative and imaginative animation shorts or fake commercials made by the cast cleverly projected above the stage. It is a great way to distract us during stage and costume changes. Of course, it is all within keeping the Christmassy theme of the times, very funny and very fresh.
The music for this show was one of the strongest elements and definitely set the tone for the whole production by Stacey Quinealty, the musical director. Most of the songs were taken from old holiday favorites from yesteryear such as; "Santa Baby" (1953), "Let it Snow" (1959) and "Sleigh Ride" (1948). Most of the audience was not around when these songs were written and it doesn’t really matter. They have been drilled into our collective holiday consciousness. I must also include the song; "I Hope I Get It" (1975), as a perfect match for a small child begging and pleading with the man in the big red suit to deliver a bike to him on that special day. Between the slow motion of a snow fight to the mimicking of the play Hamilton, my favorite is still the full Monty strip to Randy Newman’s,”You can Keep Your Hat On.” Perfectly timed, it is a laugh out loud riot to see and experience grown men dress like Santa’s elves gyrating around the stage and stripping down to this song. I think this one should have been the finale. Actually, there wasn’t one part of this show that I did not find entertaining and engaging. That is why I try to come each season they are in town.
In terms of the acting, dancing and singing, the entire cast was wonderful. Looking over the combined talent and experience of all of them is quite remarkable. Everyone has appeared in television, internet shows, and some films in a multitude of roles. Brothers Shaun and Brandon Loeser are a hoot. After all these shows, I can only assume that they know each step and word flawlessly. Both are great talents as they engage with the audience as if all of this was fresh and new. As brothers that produce and direct such a happy show, they must be elated at the popularity of this massive undertaking. The lighting director Wynn Zucchero knows his stuff as well as the dance choreographer, Tania Pearson-Loeser. What a talented crew and family. A production is always a community effort and the entire cast of actors must also be acknowledged for their winning contribution. Lon Gowan, a very versatile actor, Darren Mangler, has a great voice, Tony Nunes, a sharp eye for slapstick, and Jim O’Brien, who is just a funny dude. Hanging out with this group would be a blast!
Please don’t miss Santasia this time at the wonderful Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. It will chase away any holiday blues and make the winter doldrums go anyway. No heavy religious overtones here, but rather a statement about everything we love and despise at this time of year. Happily, this is a wonderful escape from this unpredictable year. No wonder this theatre keeps this show coming back.
Santasia – A Holiday Comedy plays Fridays through Sunday, including Thursday the 22nd of December. December 2nd through December 25, 2016. Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
www. Santasia.com or 818-990-2324.