Suburban News - December 2004

Review of Shadowbox Cabaret
By Dennis Thompson, Suburban News

Holiday Hoopla is one of Shadowbox Cabaret’s most popular shows and this one is the best in years.

This is partly as it seems a greatest hits Hoopla. Not that the material is recycled (except for the welcome return of Jimmy Mak’s classic Dasher the militaristic reindeer) but its that the season is adapted to include most of their favorite recurring characters and strongest skit types.

So we have everything here, the kid’s elementary school pageant skit, Casey Kasem, Cindy and Laverne. There’s even a ‘Jason’s Scary Story.’ Freak Show didn’t have a Jason, but Hoopla does in a Mak and David Whitehouse bit that would have made Jimmy Stewart proud. All that before you even get to the Santa Babies. The only thing missing is a Dr. Mystery.

The elementary school pageant has the cast as kids doing a Christmas Carol under the frantic eye of Mary Randle as the teacher. These bits are always a joy with the individual characteristics familiar to us all. Take time to watch a different cast member for a moment and see how they each regress in great detail. But pay particular attention to Julie Klein’s delightful Scrooge.

Mak’s Kasem with his droll comments and stunned expressions in reaction to the overblown modern music is always a favorite. So to are Randle and Klein as their Cindy and Laverne adapt to any season.

Funny, and surprisingly moving, is David Gigliotti as a fired department store Santa with a big heart in “Best Damn Santa Around.” Equally strong is Amy Lay’s over analytical 7 year old in ‘Santa Fraud.’

Of course, the Hoopla centerpiece is the Santa Babies with Klein, Stephanie Shull, and Katy Psenicka as the grade B lounge singers. It’s cheesy and risqué, familiar yet with still a few surprises. After 13 years it’s still a bit going strong and a favorite of Shadowbox regulars.

Musically, I look forward every year to ‘Children Go Where They Send Me.’ This year, it’s the first number and the powerful rendition by Klein with Shull, Noelle Grandison and JT Walker III still literally gives me chills.

If there’s any disappointment here it’s that the rest of the music seems aimed to make it more modern – rap, metal, the type of music that would make Mak’s Kasem cringe.

There’s still Shull melting us with ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ and Klein has an interesting Shadowbox original number with ‘Mall Santa.’

But other than ‘Children’, the melodic traditional Christmas music of past Hooplas is gone. The edgy stuff used to be an occasional insert around the traditional harmonies. Now it’s the other way around.

So we have both the Whitehouse, Robert Foor, and Michael Duggan rap of “ Christmas in Hollis’ and the Duggan heavy metal ‘I Am Santa Claus’ and works of that nature.

Still, for some those may be the favorites. Maybe I’m just getting old.

But there’s enough fine music and a wonderful collection of comedy. Couple this with 2Co’s Cabaret’s excellent Christmas show and the Shadowbox company has outdone themselves this holiday.