No Grooming at the Inn

Man maintenance! For Xmas!

Who wore it better? The Quaint & The Curious retro pop with uke to protest “Everybody Seems to Love Santa’s Beard.” Which means, they don’t love his. In fact, he’s persecuted for his tonsorial choices.

Don’t Shave for Me, Mrs. Claus” is a gender liquid Celtic overly orchestrated ballad filled with reassuring angst from Ginger. Right up my alley.

Metallists Vicious Kitty go after the traditional “Mrs. Claus” for all the bad things that have accrued at the pole, including Santa’s shaving.

Santa Shaved Mr. Simpson’s Head” by Mr. Simpson, might be a schoolteacher explaining to the kids why he’s balding. Or it might be a showtune about an acid trip. Frogs, reindeer thieves, and ninjas appear and disappear for no better reason than they’re friggin’ awesome.

Curtain Call

Chris, Mrs. is a contemporary story of an advertising executive and single dad, Ben Chris, who in a final visit to his late parents’ lodge (which he is planning to leverage for a promotion) runs head first into family opposition from his brother Charlie, teenage daughter Claire, and troublemaking twins Samuel and Samantha. After discovering a ring in their father’s suitcase, the twins write to Santa for assistance. Enter Holly, a seasonal employee at the lodge. Between Charlie’s nostalgic nature and Holly’s Christmas cheer, it soon becomes a holiday no one will forget. This ‘Hallmark movie’ takeoff ticks all the boxes… Soaring wish–“All I Want for Christmas;” vixen’s torch song–“Vicki’s Lament;” an important side track metaphor-“The Great Snowy Owl;” let-your-hair-down whimsy–“Skating By“… On the other hand, it’s quite well done. But it does go to show ya, anyone can write a musical!

The Big Number

Jingle in the City asks us to follow the pick-pocketing adventures of a band of homeless children who steal the hearts of all in 1940s NYC while discovering the true meaning of belonging and love. BIG opening number: “Jingle in the City” o’course. Where do you go from so UP? Traditional carols, sadly. Against that beginning the original songs never measure up (a one minute, all-shouting “Christmas Lights“) (the all-children window shopping “Everything“) (the dance number defanging the police “Catch Me If You Can“) (the sickly sweet orphans’ dream “O to be Loved“). Only religious numbers lead everyone to the same conclusion: That’s The Only Right Way To Sing!

Blocking/Choreography

Another overly sentimental “Christmas on the Square” (a ’20 Emmy winner) wallops another millionaire with conscience and spirit just in time. Great hillbilly country music, though. Another “Christmas Is,” now with gospel overtones. Jennifer Lewis dresses down the baddie with a real show tune: “Queen of Mean.” How to cure capitalism? “Everybody Needs an Angel.” (The angel is Jeanine Mason, who reports to the godly Dolly.) The pedantic showdown comes from Dolly with “Light Your Lamp,” a story no hard heart can withstand.

House Lights

A Christmas Memory is the 2010 musicalization of a Truman Capote short story from 1956. Midwest hokum in concept and execution. “Christmas Is…” reeks of every 1970s greeting card there ever was. The waxy nostalgia of “Christmas Through the Years” is overwhelmed with xylophone noise. “Just Once” sounds like an early rehearsal in a poorly funded school. Apparently the absent father (dead) has made a negative impression, but he whines from beyond the grave in “So Many Times.” Overcoming poverty in the Great Depression is a swell background, but this show requires being old enough to remember that time, as well as having little taste. Rather than suffering the “Finale,” stick to church services.

Soundtrack

Another concept album what tells a story, it does. A Christmas Musical by Shifting Buffalo appears humbly as a collection of original holiday jingles. But, check out the titles sequentially: “Hurry Up Santa.” “Prancer Falls Ill,” “What are We Gonna Do?“… Now, fret not, little ones, “The Presents are Delivered in Record Time” [a wild instrumental]. How?? “Brian to the Rescue,” my pretties. (Eminent physicist Brian Cox, that is! SpaceTime is bent for the good!) New Age-ish indie pop–and, i enjoyed this 20 minute ride of a musical.

You like that? Have another (this time a 45 minute multi-genre rock album only) Contents Under Pressure: A Christmas Musical by Contents Under Pressure. It begins with a proper “Overture.” The gang doesn’t know what to do for “Christmas This Year,” so they concoct a musical. Plot? One of them has lost the spirit. He’s had a past Christmas that was “Too Real.” While pouting, he stumbles into a “Snowball Fight.” After hospitalization they all go “Shopping” (great kick line bridge), but it’s not enough to respiritualize. You see, this is just a fun mess with as much story as a Beatles’ movie in the ’60s. After a ‘Wonderful Life’ fantasy sequence (“Anti Xmas War Machine“), we dive deep into what “Christmas Means to Me.” Alls well that includes excellent rock. And a “Party Song.”

Tommy Tune


As we wind down the month, i must admit to locating many musicals that have no published soundtracks. I had no intention of invoking their specters. But, for the Hanukkah special i had to reference with what little was at hand.

For example, ‘Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins’ piques our interest with its title. It’s a children’s picture book that got adapted by Z Puppets Rosenschnoz. Check out the advert. And a home movie of a production in which the trickster fools the monsters with overcomplicated religious practices. “There is Something Wrong Here” makes a nice somber intro. “O Hershel, Beware of Goblins” is a fine pep talk for the wandering jester figure. “We Hate Hanukkah” is fairly cute for the Goblin chorus kick line.

Now Adam Sandler doesn’t get a pass in my house. He has to earn titles like ‘funnyman.’ So, i rewatch Eight Crazy Nights and i tip the hat. “Davey’s Song” is such a blend of jolly tune and self loathing, it gets me every time. What i dig the most is the casual plot turns put into song, like in “Long Ago” and “Bum Biddy.” Good stuff. There’s even a catchy tune in there: “Technical Foul.” Earworm!

A Hanukkah Carol, or GELT TRIP! The Musical is the (finally) cultural cross-over of Dickens and The Chosen people. Narcissistic influencer Chava Kanipshin overdoses on pot (Marley reference) and envisions her life through a humanistic lens. Can’t get a full soundtrack here either, but the “Trailer” is fun. The message song “A Light in the Night” has a nice beat, but the schmaltz is too slippery. “The Present is a Gift” is much more clever. I’d see it.

Showstopper

‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ (1957) was actually improved by the (1966) TV cartoon. THAT had songs! It was enough. But further movies added nothing but silly psychoanalysis, as if you couldn’t figure out these characters for yourselves. Then (1998) Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical cluttered the shelves further. Narrated by Max (the dog) (“This Time of Year“–added (2007) for the Broadway transplantation) it includes ‘Fah Who Foraze’ and ‘You’re a Mean One.’ But it puffles and weezles with no inner spark. “I Hate Christmas” veers from tango to pop showtune without a hook. The agenda of love vs. materialism is beaten like a dead hornswoggle (“It’s the Thought that Counts“) (also Broadwayized). Cindy Lou Who’s attempt to reach the meanie (“Santa for a Day“) grates like a cattle call for Shirley Temple wannabes. Reprises riddle the Grinch’s epiphany for a whole act dragging out this short idea into redundancy. I will admit that the green one’s amusing-adjacent torch song (to himself) “One of a Kind” helps the show rise to mediocrity.

Also unnecessary, but highly entertaining is A Good Christmas to Die Hard by David Goody. Is that a Christmas movie? Yes. Is this ramshackle album a musical? “Nakatomi Baby.” “Where Are My Detonators?” “But Hans It’s Cold Outside.” “Sgt. Powell.” These are not simply caroldies, but fanboy quote-laden religious homages to an old action flick. Obsessive. Don’t worry, the sequels get their due in “Have Yourself a Yippee-Kai-Yay Christmas.” Amateur singing, brilliant work.

Revue

Just a cabaret show full of original songs is hardly a musical (though i did have that discussion with my better half over the essentials of a musical: story?!?), however, when Naughty… but Nice! collects such originally sprightly tunes from all over for this presentation, attention must be paid. Not interested? “Come to the Table” is a come-to-Jesus gospel epic about overeating (and how the Bible teaches pooping). “Baileys for Breakfast” is a deliberate piano bar introspective about seasonal alcoholism. (Which beats out the ragtime sobby cry for help “Little Glass of Wine.” BLUE ALERT) “Santa’s My Daddy” starts as a childhood epiphany, then takes an uncomfortable turn. “Lait de Poule” retros the talky rocker plea of the ’50s, even though it’s about eggnog. (Watch out for the disturbing literal translation.) The 1980s big rock symphony revives with “Why Do I Live Where the Air Hurts My Face?” Awesome kvetching.

Reprise

David George’s Christmas Ain’t a Drag (The Musical) is about four lost souls intersecting at a nightclub on Christmas Eve. From the promotional material: Brad has lost love and is eager to find it. Holly is always looking for love but never seems to hold on to it. Trish has walled herself away from love. And, Nick is trying to break those walls down. Then there’s Benedict, the owner of the club – a bah humbug kinda’ guy. In the end, love conquers all!

The smokey blues elevate the plotless revue material. “What’s a Naughty Girl to Do?” (feat. Shanna Jones) takes the sax to a new level on the blog. “Hot Rod Santa” (feat. Shay Estes) ups the Hey Hey quotient. “Red Lipstick” (feat. Shay Estes) gets va va voom with the drums. The quieter bits don’t generally work as well (like the lullaby “Tonight’s Child“), but i guess ya gotta vary the tunes and tones to keep ’em guessing. ‘Cuz the lighter waving anthem “Christmas Time is Here” (feat. Shanna Jones) busts up the genres. (And makes me think The Beatles.) Then comes “Another Blue Christmas“… i guessed dull cliche, but it’s got trumpet quiet cool. I mean très cool. And to all a cool vibe. Great album.