Cincinnati Post - December 6, 2004

Shadowbox 'Holiday Hoopla' hip with high-energy, hi-jinks

Cabaret review by Jan Perry
Post contributor

One of the best gifts of the season isn't under your Christmas tree. Instead, this "box" is unwrapped nightly at Newport on the Levee. "Holiday Hoopla," Shadowbox Cabaret's current production, is a tinsel-trimmed tribute to all things "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

Casting for the seasonal celebration required last minute substitutions as upper respiratory woes left a few of the regulars, including show principle Stacie Boord, vocally limited for last week's opening. But the audience, none the wiser, responded enthusiastically to Lauren Pottinger and Erin Spears who pinch hit by belting out a couple of big numbers brought over from the troupe's Lunchbox show..

Boord's sultry solo singing was missed and the show shifts back to its original lineup as soon as healthy voices return, but Pottinger and Spears surly earned a spot in front of the band in future productions.

This was also a breakout for Bailee DesRocher who sang solo admirably on "Man with the Bag," and took on the role of Santa Baby Daniella in the show's closer.

But not all of the music came from new voices. Lori Hunt, Lauren Good and Brandon Anderson each sang seasonal spice into the mix as did Mark Slack, Sam Schneider and Mitchell Stallons (who combined on the vocals for the choreographed number, "Hollis").

The biggest applause of the night came at the end of the first act when Allen Talbott on guitar, Brian Westbrook on keyboards and the rest of the house band BillWho? flat out rocked the Box with their version of "Christmas in Sarajevo."

The evening's theatrical card included a trio of monologues: Slack's intense (and intensely funny) version of "Dasher"; Schneider's guide to gift wrapping, filled with wonderful lines well-delivered; and one from Michelle Daniels, who used great facial expression and effective pauses to make her tale of "Christmas with Louise" one of the evening's highlights.

Then, in a fine duet, Slack and Robbie Nance paired up as Santa and talk show host "Dr. Bill," in an interview that revealed the truth behind the naughty or nice debate.

But it was the evening's ensemble pieces that carried most of the "Hoopla" load.

Michael Pizzuto reprised his role as Vinnie, the mobster turned children's TV show host, in a piece that proves peace on Earth isn't necessarily everyone's holiday mantra.

The precocious Sissy (played by Boord) returned in "Kids-mas Carol." Reminiscent of every elementary school slaughtering of the Dickens classic, this piece shined with small gems.

The evening's longest (and raciest) skit belonged to the Santa Babies: Dodie (Hunt), Daniella (DesRocher) and Dolly (Boord) who, along with their accompanist Dick Stickler (Westbrook), ended the show with holiday harmonizing, high-energy hi-jinks, a segment with a surprise guest and lots of looks at Dolly's lacy panties.

"Holiday Hoopla" runs daily (except Christmas Eve and Day) through Dec. 27. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students for 7 p.m. performances, Sunday-Thursday and $25 for 8 p.m. performances Friday-Saturday. Tickets for seniors are $10. To make reservations, or to confirm availability (most weekend performances are sold out or close to it) call the Shadowbox Cabaret hotline at (859) 581-7625. Shadowbox Cabaret South is located on the top level of the Newport on the Levee complex.