Taking a break from finals studying, Bwog’s North Pole Bureau Chief Sean Zimmermann reports from the production of “XMAS! 4: Shalom Alone” last night about the story of one little Jewish Santa:
As the audience walked in to Roone, the first thing to notice was the loud dance music filling the auditorium. Lady Gaga, who usually isn’t associated with holiday cheer, was a surprising choice and a stark contrast to the musicians warming up wearing Santa hats. However, “surprising” is indeed a good overall characterization of the musical. Surprising due to its very small budget, surprising due to its limited showings, and surprising due to just how good it turned out to be.
Ollie Klausberg, played by Brian LaPerche, opened the musical by giving a reading from the Torah during his Bar Mitzvah. However, the nervous Ollie wets himself while reading and runs off stage. After being comforted by his pagan friend Amethyst (Emily Feinstein), an elf named Marty (Reni Calister) greets Ollie and informs him that he is the grandson of Santa and needs to travel to the North Pole. Ollie, after some encouragement from Amethyst, agrees.
When Ollie and Amethyst arrive at North Pole City, they learn that it is not the perfect world of childhood fantasies. Prancer (Zach Ludin) is upset because everyone thinks he is gay, the toymaker Virgin Mary (Emily Wallen) is upset because she is still a virgin, and Joe the Intern Elf (David Offit) is upset because Marty treats him poorly.
Ollie then learns that Santa, played brilliantly by Michael Abraham, has gone insane, and he needs to take over. After working for Santa for hundreds of years, Marty becomes furious at Ollie for being chosen successor and attempts to sabotage him. Meanwhile, Ollie’s Jewish mother, Karen (Ilana Rice), becomes worried and hires the cavalier Captain Ernest Shackleton to help her travel to the North Pole. On the way, they encounter the dapperly dressed penguin, Preston P. Pennington (Alex Hare), who competes with Ernest to woo the anxious mother.
The script by John Goodwin and Nina Pedrad was funny, thoroughly entertaining, and filled with memorable moments. Incorrectly programmed Christmas robots were the basis for a notable scene when they began to perform an African dance while celebrating Kwanzaa. One of the robots, Kwanzaa-Bot (Alia Munsch), even becomes the love interest for the insane Santa. Another memorable moment comes when Virgin Mary and the intern Joe fall in love. Mary comments, “Thank God we found each other.” To which Joe replies, “Jesus Christ I know!” The show also references previous “XMAS!” productions: Charlie Brown, a character from last year’s show, arrives to help the citizens of North Pole City form a ring onstage.
The music and lyrics, written by Matt Starr and Benjamin Weiner, were also well done. Though all of the shows musical numbers were strong, a few that stood out. “I’m Not a Man Today,” sung by Ollie as he fails his Torah reading, garnered many laughs, as did the Kwanzaa robot song. “It’s a North Pole City Day,” in which everyone explained why they were unhappy, was exceptionally well done; the individual monologues mixed in with the chorus showcased the cast’s musical abilities.
In a production that ultimately ended up being much better than the last Varsity Show, and using just a fraction of the budget, “XMAS! 4: Shalom Alone,” directed by Ameneh Bordi, was one of the best shows Columbia has offered in the recent past. Regardless of what the Catholic League says.