November 26, 2008
No show would be complete without an appearance from the Santa Babies, consistently the stars of the holiday revue. Psenicka's Darlyn, Julie Klein's Dixie and Stephanie Shull's Dorothy get updated material, and as always they provide laughs with a playful and often sexual take on a bawdy lounge act's version of Christmas cheer.
Also returning is playwright Jeff Goode's riotous militant Dasher monologue. Dasher (played by head writer Jimmy Mak) is trying to get his team of reindeer pumped up for the yearly flight, even if he's still a little hung up on that one foggy year when he was replaced as the sleigh leader.
Also hitting high notes: "Vinnie's Christmas Special," the holiday episode of a kids' TV show hosted by stereotypical gangster Vinnie (Mak), with his bimbo girlfriend (a scene-stealing Amy Lay) as Mrs. Claus; and "Shannon's Movie Reviews," in which seven-year-old Shannon (Lay again) does a hatchet job on the holiday classic A Christmas Carol.
Under the direction of Steve Guyer, this year's Hoopla is a taut collection of skits and musical interludes that rarely hits a rough patch. Even with a couple of new numbers, the show plays like the company's greatest hits, which this keeps things fun and always watchable.
Perhaps the only part of Hoopla that needs a little work is the music, which can largely be blamed on a general lack of rocking holiday songs. But house band BillWho? is Shadowbox's secret weapon, and they do manage to find a few songs that sound amazing.
Guyer's "I Believe in Father Christmas" and Mary Randle's "Back Door Santa" offer welcome breaks from the comedy, and "Children Go Where I Send Thee" puts everything else to shame. Backed by Shull, Lay and Jerrod Wigton, Klein's cover of Natalie Merchant's version of the song is flawless. It's easy to see why it's quickly becoming as big a Hoopla staple as the Santa Babies themselves.