There are only so many times a person can listen to the same holiday album before wanting to tear their hair out. Sorry, Sinatra. What’s worse is that nowhere seems to be safe from the classic jingles, not even the local Safeway. So, what remedy is there for the jaded listener this holiday season, besides becoming a total shut-in? Well, there’s always Forte Musical Theatre Guild’s Naughty But Nice, running now at Lunchbox Theatre.
Directed by JP Thibodeau, Naughty But Nice is a musical revue that lampoons the holiday season with original songs from Canadian and international composers. The songs are performed by Katherine Fadum, Ahad Mir, Scott Olynek, and Selina Wong. Although fun and certainly sassy, the show falls flat at times, despite great performances from its cast.
For sure, the evening’s highlight is Dan Perrott’s Requiem for the Corporate Christmas Party. It’s no secret that the oil slump has forced companies to significantly scale back their christmas parties. What were major events are now, essentially, paper bag lunches. How’s that for getting into the Christmas spirit, eh? Perrott’s lyrics certainly hit a nerve given the downturn, but is it ever hilarious.
The ensemble sing in ridiculous French accents, with cigarettes barely hanging from their mouths. Lauren Thompson’s choreography sees the actors do a weird sort of full body wobble as they lament the current state of affairs. Everything about the number is deliciously over-the-top and wonderful.
Not all the toys in Santa’s bag are winners, though. For every batmobile, there’s a pet rock.
Frank Loesser’s Baby It’s Cold Outside, arr. musical director Joe Slabe, is given the naughty treatment by staging it as a blooming threesome. The “say, what’s in this drink?” line takes on a different meaning when we realize that Mir is being seduced by Fadum and Olynek, a couple looking for a third to join them. The number is funny enough, but it just feels too easy considering that some already think Loesser’s song is ‘creepy’ to begin with. (That’s a whole other discussion).
Then, there’s Matthew Hardy & Robert Maggio’s Bling, a song about Christmas bling. Wong breathes life into an otherwise forgettable song. Another forgettable number is Grant Tilly’s Thank You, Christians, a song about atheists and non-Christian faiths who see Christmas in an entirely different light.
The problem is, some of the songs feel too tame for a show titled Naughty But Nice. Perrott’s Requiem works great because it is definitely naughty to write and perform this type of song during a downturn, but he doesn’t go too far crossing the line. People can laugh without feeling (too) bad about doing so. The other songs come off as either kind of cheesy or just not very memorable, because they lean too much on the ‘Nice’ side of things.
The show picks up when the ensemble take the stage individually to deliver some really funny monologues.
Fadum destroys Hans Christian Anderson’s The Match Girl, a super depressing book she can’t believe parents read to their children. It’s a glorious takedown by Fadum as she gives us a play-by-play of the story, while angrily waving the book around like a ragdoll.
The War on Christmas is real, and Wong lights up the stage as she rages against red seasonal cups and people who wish her ‘happy holidays’.
Olynek recounts the very funny story of how he found out Santa wasn’t real and, at the same time, learned about the bees & the birds.
Mir, playing Jesus, tells us why it sucks to have Christmas and your birthday fall at the same time, and how it feels to be overshadowed by Santa Claus every year (“The Original Headline Act”, Edward Bell & Richy Hughes).
Perrott’s Requiem is the show’s bread and butter, with everything else being generally hit or miss. Thibodeau’s direction brings plenty of earnest zest to the staging, but the show never quite lifts off. And if it does, the show dips right back to square one, or somewhere awfully close to it. Some audience members may, in fact, find themselves asking, unenthusiastically “okay, what’s next?” after songs end. If nothing else, Naughty But Nice is a fluffy distraction from the winter weather.
Forte Musical Theatre Guild’s Naughty But Nice runs at Lunchbox Theatre, Dec 8 – 20.
For more information about the show, visit: http://www.fortemusical.ca/#!upcoming/cfvg