Pictured: Elise Poehling, R.H. Wilhoit, Ellen Kirk, Nellie Maple, and Mike Ott. Photo: Brian Paulette
By Jason Epperson
One of my favorite new holiday shows has returned to The Living Room for its second year in an updated and expanded package.
Ben Auxier, Brian Huther, Seth Macchi and Ryan McCall’s clever hero-saves-Christmas tale still has the sharp original music, caustic humor, and a wholly original plot I raved about last year. Something is awry in Christmastown, and Macey Maid-a-Milking wants to know why. Coal production is at an all-time high, yet the Naughty list only enumerates one kid – that jerk Dan. Macey’s quest leads her on a heartwarming-yet-hilarious quest to save the day from a not-so-nice Santa.
This year’s production has been pulled like taffy into a two-act, 2+ hour affair. Most of the additions are funny or sweet, but not entirely necessary. It never drags, but with so much crammed into the package now, there’s not quite enough room for the actors to mine every moment. The frenetic pace at Friday night’s opening performance had the actors fighting to manage the very bouts of laughter they were
Elise Poehling has returned as the mighty Macey, fighting the battle for Christmas with a heart and voice of gold. Pancho Javier is the new son-of-Santa who doesn’t want to assume the sleigh, and he has a solid grasp of the comedy hidden beneath the emo. Nellie Maple, Mike Ott, R.H. Wilhoit and Ellen Kirk bring the majority of the humor to the party through a variety of supporting characters; an overbaked gingerbread man, a candy cane nobody wanted to eat, bumbling toy soldiers, and more. I’m also happy to report that this year’s cast better reflects the diversity that any Christmastown should boast.
This show is truly something special Kansas City gets to experience on its own for now, so lap it up, before it becomes one of those shows that’s happening in every major city.