Interview with XMAS! A Secular Spectacular

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xmasCaitlin Shure CC ‘07, Shruti Kumar CC ‘08, and Jordy Lievers CC ‘07 sing along to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in the kitchen of Shure’s EC suite. They are preparing a veritable feast in the spirit of the upcoming holidays—it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas ’round here, so the trio is preparing a potluck dinner for the cast and creative team of their new musical: Xmas! A Secular Spectacular, playing Tuesday night in Roone Arledge Auditorium. As the meal preparation simmers down, Caitlin and Shruti—writer and composer, respectively—find a moment to sit down with Bwog correspondent Michael Snyder as art director Jordy puts the finishing touches on the suite’s decoration.

The Secular Spectacular—when did you start working on it?

SHURE: It’s hard to say.

KUMAR: A lot of the work began before Caitlin and I knew each other.

SHURE: Last year around this time I just said “Guys—can we do a Christmas Spectacular?” I thought it was going to be really simple, just a couple of friends singing songs. Then the three of us decided to propose Grease to CMTS and still maybe do this Christmas Show—

KUMAR: —just as something on the side. But Grease was rejected by CMTS.

SHURE: But we had this ridiculous creative team. We had the best producers, the best music, the best design—

KUMAR: The best director.

SHURE: So I said, “I had this idea for a Christmas show.” And I think the thing that’s gotten people involved at every step is, basically, who wouldn’t want to do a Christmas show?

KUMAR: It’s just so much fun. And it’s not even a Christmas show really. It’s more like a show about the Christmas season. It’s called the Secular Spectacular because it’s not religious at all. It’s just the fun of the season in a really goofy musical.

SHURE: Completely irreverent.

KUMAR: For a while it was still going to be just old Christmas carols and then over the summer Caitlin and I decided to write new music. She does the lyrics and I do the music and it’s just really funny.

SHURE: The music and the lyrics came first and then over the summer we decided to actually make it serious. At some point we just said “Let’s do this.”

So what is the cast of characters like for the Spectacular?

KUMAR: The whole premise is that it’s a party thrown at Jack Frost’s house, and Santa’s quitting Christmas.

SHURE: Santa’s an ass in this show.

KUMAR: Jack throws a party to convince Santa to stay. So Jack Frost is the narrator and he has these three backup singers—the HoHoHos.

SHURE: And the other big characters: there’s Jesus who ends up getting in a fight with Santa about who the holiday is for. And there’s Mistletoe—she’s really lonely.

KUMAR: She watches everyone else kiss, she inspires their love, but she never gets any herself. Scrooge and the Grinch are there, and we have a yellow snowflake.

SHURE: There’s a Jewish family, Frosty the Snowman, Dasher and Blitzen.

KUMAR: We have Mrs. Claus!

SHURE: Mrs. Claus is really sexually frustrated and sleeps with all of the elves and reindeer because, and she sings a great song about this, “Santa only cums once a year.”

KUMAR: There’s a Sweater-Mom and her bratty daughter.

SHURE: And Clara.

KUMAR: Right. Clara from the nutcracker who’s just drunk at the bar because her nutcracker’s missing.

SHURE: And a Christmas Tree who hates everyone and says fuck a lot.

KUMAR: Yeah, she’s really miserable. We have 25 people in all, so it’s a huge cast and they’re all at this party trying to convince Santa to stay. It’s mostly musical numbers—that’s why we’re calling it a Spectacular and not a show or a musical.

That’s quite a cast. How did you come up with all of those characters?

SHURE: It started with the lyrics for the songs. I had written these lyrics and so we already had all of these different characters—

KUMAR: But it was very disjointed.

SHURE: And then we thought that it would be so much fun to just have all of these different characters at a party.

KUMAR: The holiday all-stars.

SHURE: The whole fun of it is just seeing how they might interact.

KUMAR: So we started with Mrs. Claus’s song, “Once a Year” and we thought it would be really fun for a yellow snowflake to have some big pop-star number. At this point, Jordy has finished preparing the suite and has taken a seat beside Caitlin.

LIEVERS: And sometimes, when we were casting, we would have these amazing people come in and just think, ‘Okay, what Christmas stereotype do you remind us of?”

SHURE: And now everything is happening at once. It goes something like: Monday, write the song. Tuesday, rehearse it. Choreograph…this weekend?

KUMAR: But the best part of this has been the process on our end. It’s just been so much fun.

SHURE: Like tonight we’re having our Christmas potluck dinner!

LIEVERS: We started celebrating Christmas in early October.

KUMAR: We’ve been so lucky. Everything has just happened, and we owe a lot of that to our producers. And groups like CCSC have been really behind us.

SHURE: We want it to be a Columbia event.

KUMAR: We want people to know that’s it not something to miss. It’s not just for the theater community. We want people who don’t normally go see shows to come see this.

SHURE: The big thing we want to communicate is that this show is not about “Oh how wonderful! Christmas!”

LIEVERS: It’s naughty.

SHURE: It’s Christmas, fucked up.

KUMAR: It’s the Rockettes at Radio City if they got drunk before the show. BWOG: Dates? Time?

SHURE: December 12—the first night of reading week—at 7:30 in Roone.

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  1. product placement  

    this reminds me of the favorable reviews the paper places next to ads for films or books...nope, no financial interest there...

  2. but...  

    I can't think of a way in which BWOG would benefit financially from this...

    and the show is free...

  3. ugh  

    i didn't even read the article and i still hate it.

  4. tree lighting  

    they were by far the best perfomers last night. i'm gonna go see it - why not?!

  5. cool.  

    dude. this kinda sounds like the varsity show.. but about the holidays. if its anything like v-show, im sure itll be hilarious.

  6. Caitlin  

    Just wanted to make a note:

    This may not be clear from the interview but XMAS! would NOT have happened without the hard work of 3 very talented writers:

    Becky Abrams, Peter Mende-Siedlecki, and Tom Keenan.

  7. -LB  

    i didn't know what to think when i first saw this show being advertised. but i'm very convinced now-- looks like it'll be kind of awesome.

    congrats to director/creator people for taking that kind of initiative.

  8. ...  

    It should be better then Merrily, anyway.

  9. colin  

    first of all: THAN!
    second of all: WHOA!!

    I rest my case.

  10. staple guns  

    are really, really dangerous. #17 should have known better.

  11. colin  

    you are immunized for tetanus, right?

  12. xmas-er  

    merrily and xmas are totally unrelated except that they're both columbia productions put up by people who love musicals! and they're both awesome!

  13. and besides  

    if you didn't like merrily, note that due to conflicts in rehearsal schedules, NONE of the people in merrily could be in XMAS!

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