"Judy's Scary Little Christmas" Presented by Rarely Done Productions Location CNY Jazz Central 441 E. Washington St. | Syracuse When Dec 2 - 10 Tickets $25 GRR Review By Mary Gibble
There is a reason Christmas comes once a year. By around December 28, you've succumbed to the urge to return that scratchy sweater from your grandma, you've accumulated several cavities from Starbucks's ridiculously sugary seasonal lattes and you're planning your rockin' New Year's Eve with no guilt over whether you'll be naughty or nice. The Christmas season is a magical time of year, but red velvet is far too hot a fabric for July.
Apparently, “Judy's Scary Little Christmas,” produced by Rarely Done Productions, didn't get the 'take the tree down after New Year's' memo. Both cheeky and entertaining, this musical farce overstays its welcome by about 30 minutes.
The year is 1959, and Judy Garland is welcoming the audience into her home for the holidays. Some of Garland's many friends, including Bing Crosby, Liberace, Ethel Merman, Richard Nixon, and Joan Crawford, stop by for the Christmas Eve festivities. As the evening progresses events take a turn for the worst, making the whole thing feel like Halloween instead of Christmas. While there are a few reasons for this play to be counted among the naughty, let's start with the nice.
Jimmy Wachter (Judy Garland) mimics the starlet's signature hand gestures to perfection. If you close your eyes, you'd swear Garland was in the room. His multiple costume changes - starting with the quintessential Mrs. Claus dress and ending with a sparking black minidress - reflect the bombastic nature of a leading lady. When the themes get serious (and
believe me, they get serious) Wachter channels the sensitivity of Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz." But by the end of the production, you're convinced Garland was always meant to be a drag queen.
Wachter is upstaged only by Garrett Heater (Joan Crawford), who delivers an unforgettable performance as 'mommy dearest' herself. An oration of the Christmas story, the highlight of the evening, is accented by multiple outbursts and winks at celebrity narcissism. “Nine months pregnant and a virgin!? Make up your mind!” screams Garrett.
Though he may be upstaged by his outfits, Liberace tickles the ivories and waves his arms with gaiety. Josh D. Smith is the spitting image of the Glitter Man in his illuminated tux and purple, velvet dinner jacket. He banters with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman, waves his ringed fingers every chance he gets, giggles and wiggles. He looks right at home among the audacious Christmas decorations.
Now, let's check some boxes on the naughty list.
While the voices of the chorus are stronger than any you'll find singing carols at your front door, they are simply asked to do too much. This results in forgotten lines and cues. Chorus member Liam Fitzpatrick, however, shines when he stuffs his hand up Punch the puppet. The puppet laments over undelivered letters to Santa, imploring Garland and playwright Lillian Hellman to help him save the day.
The production's biggest disappointment is not any fault of Rarely Done Productions, but rather of the playwright. The second act dampens the holiday spirit like a wet blanket, so much so that you find yourself counting down the minutes to curtain. While the show as a whole is definitely a holiday treat worth seeing, don't be surprised if you find yourself yearning for a cold glass of eggnog (heavy on the nog) halfway through the final act.