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Holiday Laughs at TheatreWorks

by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sat Dec 7th, 2019

Cast of Wreck the Halls

When the quality of local theater rises to the level of top Broadway showmanship, then one knows that a hit run must be certain. Yet this production of Bradford Blake’s Wreck the Halls by its director, composer, and lyricist is in our backyard!

Six actor-singers perform 27 musical skits concerning clichés about Christmas season. The madcap over-the-top humor finds itself ensconced in bawdy satire with this swiftly moving kaleidoscopic tableaux. The satire remains closer to a Greek satyr play where bawdy wit creates a magical ambiance. The humor is not merely witty palaver, but downright laugh-aloud. Direction by Blake is precision clockwork.

Ensemble skits like “Someone Spiked the Eggnog” and “Your Christmas Package” are better than anything on television or in the movies. If you are tired of political correctness, there is nothing politically correct about this musical. Each actor has at least two solo songs and there are delightful duos or frolicsome trios where actors incarnate different personalities. There are no weak links in this stunning, rapid yet sure-paced production with an assortment of appropriate, silly props. The live musical trio of Charles Smith on piano, Robert Kogut on percussion, and Charles Casimiro on bass sound like they have been playing together for years.

It is impossible to forget Alexis Maximus Vournazos in “The Nutcraker’s Lament,” Cary Van Holen in “That Yule Log,” Bret Bisaillon in “I Don’t Wanna Be a Shepherd Anymore,” Priscilla Squiers in “The Spice in the Gingerbread Man,” Austin Tewksbury in “The Colors of Christmas,” and Diana Matson in “What a Pain the Derriere!” And yet it is the ensemble singing that is so nuanced!

Both music and lyrics deliver a sleigh ride of parody on popular holiday songs that one has heard a few times too often. The skits are irreverent, often cheerfully obscene with expert double-entendre. As there advertisement says, this production is not for little eleves.

If you have ever suffered from the Christmas Blues, Wreck the Halls is the cure. I had special affection for “I Wanna be a Rockette” with Carey and Alex because when I was seven, eight, and nine years old I had an aunt from Brooklyn who dragged me to Radio City Hall to the see the Rockettes perform. While I enjoyed the adventure of going to the Big City and taking a taxi there, I dreaded the inanity of the performance and could not understand why anyone though the leg kicking to be grand.

This raucous race car of a six-piston production will have you in stitches. It’s the kind of verbal orgy where a group of friends can memorably toss quotes about or comment on the skits, yet the most powerful memory of this production is not the ribald quality, but the effective facial mugging and body-language gestures of this immensely talented cast.

Wreck the Halls runs at TheatreWorks in New Milford, CT, on weekends until December 28th. It will cure any variety of Christmas disorientation, except the sillies.