XMAS! 5! Reviewed!

Written by

It was like this

Bwog’s Holiday Cheer Leader Peter Sterne reports.

As the first snowfall (flurries don’t count) of the year descended into Morningside Heights last night, students gathered on the Lerner Ramps and outside Roone, eager to see the latest edition of XMAS!, the VShow-like student-run musical that’s been satirizing the holiday season for the last five years. When the audience was finally let into Roone, they found the speakers blared the Maccabeats’ “Candlelight.” It was an interesting introduction to a show that spent the next two hours poking fun at corporate culture, hipsters, Jews, gays, and New Jersey, before tying it all up with the saccharine moral that XMAS is for everyone and it will always be around.

The show begins in a boardroom in XMAS, Inc., where recently hired hotshot executive William (Andrew Wright, CC ’14) is upstaging power-mad CEO Thurston Wallace I (Thomas Spry, CC ’14), who bought Christmas from Santa Claus back in the 1980s. Spry channels Jacobim Mugatu more than Gordon Gekko in his portrayal of Thurston, and the camp he brings to his character’s prima-donna personality and deliciously evil scheming are a delight to watch onstage. Once he decides that William may be a threat, he forces his poor elf assistant, Sprinkles (the phenomenal Emily Wallen, BC ’11), to lure him to a warehouse in Hoboken.

Though she’s only a supporting actor, Wallen is really the heart and soul of this play. She shines during the musical performances, effortlessly able to command the stage during a solo. More importantly, she brings an endearing awkward schtick to her character Sprinkles, who’s torn between her good conscience and the realities of working for XMAS, Inc. Surely, some of Sprinkles’ charm comes courtesy of brilliant writers (“What else can I do? Merrill Lynch isn’t exactly hiring elves and I can’t join the military because of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Telf!’”). But it is Wallen’s delivery that brings her character alive. Even when she tricks William and  locks him the Hoboken warehouse, the audience remains sympathetic to her plight.

In the warehouse, William meets others that Thurston has locked away, including the cute but assertive Tooth Fairy (Arielle Diktowich,Teachers College ’11), a pessimistic Easter Bunny (Nick Bloom, CC ’13), Paula the Purple-Nosed Reindeer suffering from a split septum (Sara Lederman, BC ’12), the annoying hipster activist Benetha Africa (Emily Feinstein, BC ’13), a mischievous leprechaun (Rachel Bronstein, BC ’13), and a sassy Grinch (the fabulous Will Hughes, CC ’13). Swaggering and prancing across the stage, Hughes had the audience in stitches when he announced that “My heart’s not the only thing that grew three sizes.”

In the basement of XMAS headquarters, they discover a washed-up Santa (Ben Weiner, CC ’11) living with a woman he believes is Mrs. Claus, but who in fact is just a sexy blonde actress (the very saucy Amelia Lembeck, BC ’14) hired by Thurston to keep Santa oblivious to the changes he has made to Christmas. The constant innuendo in the scenes between Weiner and Lembeck titillated and delighted the audience, and one of funniest moments of the play comes when Santa hints that he knows Michelle isn’t really Mrs. Claus, prompting Lenbeck to ask innocently, “But Santa, if you knew this whole time, why didn’t you say anything?”

In the climactic final scene, the XMAS Board of Directors votes for Thurston to remain CEO, but Santa uses the “Claus Clause” (a joke that has never been used before) to overrule them and give the job to William, who has now learned the true importance of Christmas. He then makes Sprinkles the “XMAS Keeper of Tradition”, and appoints “ruthless, heartless, and not very nice” Thurston the mayor of Chicago. In the end, of course, everyone breaks into song and sings that XMAS is for everyone and it will always be around.

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  1. Anonymous

    "Santa, you should stand on a chair. So everyone can see you."

    You were amazing Amelia! Congrats to all of XMAS! Music was GREAT

  2. Anonymous  

    yay Emily Nagel!

    and Andrew! JJ15 what up!

  3. Thanks for the plot summary...  

    ...but can we get a review?

  4. ???  

    Who wrote the show?

  5. Emily Wallen  

    is possibly the most talented person on this campus. I can't wait to see her on Broadway.

    • wallen lover  

      she really is amazing! idk how she hasn't been starring in the vshow. at least she had a great role in last year's xmas, and she got some well-deserved bwog love after an incredibly short cameo in bwogweather 12. still, you just know she's destined to be a great actor after seeing her in xmas 5.

  6. Anonymous  

    Some people wear superman pajamas.
    Superman wears Peter Sterne Pajamas.

  7. confused  

    is that an idiocracy reference?

  8. !!!


    P.S. Can next year just be Xmas 6: The One Woman Extravaganza starring Emily Wallen?

  9. Anonymous  

    writers were Emily Nagel and Jeff Stern. wow. GREAT review.

  10. Anonymous  

    Peter Sterne's tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

  11. Anonymous  

    Peter Sterne knows where Carmen Sandiego is.

  12. Anonymous  

    How do these reviews manage to leave out the people who truly make the show what it is: the director, writers and composers/lyricists all deserve praise for their outstanding work.

    • very true  

      this review mentions that the writing was great, but doesn't say that the writers were emily nagel and jeff stern. the lyricists (which i didn't even realize were different from writers) were eli groeber and shira laucharoen. this review didn't even mention choreography, probably because the choreography seemed so natural and understated. still, that means that choreographer spencer oberman was doing her job very well and needs to be commended for it! it's obviously hard to comment on direction, let alone producing, but alex hare (director) and becca leifer and steele sternberg (producers) and elizabeth logan (asst producer) really made the play into the success that it was!

  13. Anonymous

    Great and amazing job writing the script, Jeff!!! Absolutely hilarious, and absolutely loved it!

  14. Anonymous

    andrew wright is sexy. and ridiculously talented. he was SPECTACULAR.

  15. Blown Away

    Rachel Bronstein's Voice:
    HOLY. CRAP. Leprechaun can SING.
    That is all.

  16. Anonymous  

    All of the acting and singing was great, however this review just seems to be a plot summary/does of positive affirmation instead of an actual opinion on how the play was.
    There were alot of technical problems throughout the play, the music was spotty and there was literally no set. A huge congratulations to everyone that was involved but at the same time, these reviews should function as an objective opinion, not a cheerleader for campus events.

  17. Wow  

    This isn't even a review. I agree with the comments about Emily but that was the only honest review of the show. This doesn't address any aspect of a true review. Very disappointing.

  18. prancing?  

    Will minces, people.

  19. Anonymous  

    While you have a good point about the merit of the word "review," regarding this piece, you also are focusing on the wrong aspects of the production. The review should be regarding the talent of the performers, the quality of the writing, and the nature of the songs - not the problems brought on by Lerner Tech. This is student theatre - not Broadway. As a result, comments about the quality of the set or the mic problems considering average student budgets and the nature of rehearsing in Lerner (wasn't there that Political rally or whathaveyou going on??) are sort of null and void. I saw the 10 pm show and guess the tech problems were sorted out as there were no apparent problems during the performance. A great job overall. Glad this tradition has stayed strong.

  20. Um?  

    Your first paragraph and your last paragraph end in the same sentence.

  21. Anonymous  

    man that directing was great!


  22. A real review:

    Tonight brought us the first real snow of winter, a truly magical event. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for NOMADS's production of XMAS 5: A Corporate Carol, which limped through Roone Arledge Auditorium tonight. The show was certainly lacking in the Christmas (sorry, generic holiday) cheer that was central to it's admittedly thin plot.

    To recap, the titular "XMAS" is a Fortune 500 company run by Thurston Wallace (the First, he constantly reminds us), who 25 years ago merged with Santa, ousted him, and then rebranded the holiday as non-denominational to raise it's profits. A by-product of this was locking all possible competition to Christmas (including the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and what seemed to be a Rockette wannabe) in a warehouse in Hoboken. He also, for reasons unmentioned, keeps Kris Kringle himself locked in the basement of the office with a blonde bimbo posing as his wife (a mildly amusing Amelia Lembeck), tricking him into believing it is still 1985. The day is saved, of course, when the young VP William (Andrew Wright, one of two competent actors, the other being Emily Wallen as Spinckles, an elf-secretary) breaks out of the Warehouse of Misfit Slightly-Christmas-Associated Characters and learns a lesson about not abandoning your friends.

    The production, sometimes-servicably directed by Alex Hare, suffered from a myriad of problems, the first of which is the story. The book, by Emily Nagel and Jeff Stern, suffered from an incoherent plot, distractingly expository dialogue, and jokes which were either non-existent, or repeated so many times even the first time you heard it became unfunny. The sup-par script negatively affected the actors in a range of ways. Some, like Will Hughes as a homosexual Grinch, did the best they could with one-note jokes and inadequate writing, while others, including Nick Bloom as the Easter Bunny and Mitchell Feinberg as Chanukah Harry, gave the impression that they wouldn't be able to do much even with well-crafted characters or funny zingers.

    The production design, overseen by Art Director Kat Chan, fared no better. The program lists Rebecca Clark as set designer, but all this reviewer saw in the way of set were tables and chairs pilfered from the basement of Lerner and a few foamcore pieces. The costumes, by Shuli Shinnar, were a mix of unflattering tights and skimpy shirts, and poorly-thought-out, vaguely Christmasy sparkles (this does not apply to whatever sort of rags and sneakers Chanukah Harry was wearing, the ineptitude of which will not be mentioned here).
    The score, by Shira Laucharoen and Eli Grober, was surprisingly pleasent given the maelstorm surrounding it, but Grober could use to learn to conduct (here's a tip: up-tempo songs can be conducted in 2 instead of waving your arms frantically). The band, however, sounded underrehearsed, and was consistently too loud.

    In conclusion, XMAS 5 was exactly the kind of show you expect to be written and produced by student non-majors in 3 months, but I frankly expected better, given the known theatrical talent that exists on this campus (and this applies to members of this production team, especially the lighting department).

    • Alright Douchey Mcdouche  

      That is what I will call you because you refused to attach your name to this review. While the show had it's flaws, it was entertaining. For you to publicly slam the people who put their time and effort into this show, and most importantly put themselves out there for your entertainment is despicable considering you refrained from attaching your name your drastic opinions. You don't really have a right to anonymously shit on people who put themselves out there for you, these people deserve to know whose shit they are reading.

      For someone who wants to write a "Real" review, here is lesson #1: Journalistic integrity has a rock bottom, and attaching your name to your opinion is it.

      So Douchey, since I am going to attach my name to this I'm gonna cut the preaching off there, if you'd like some more life tips you can send me an email though!

      - Adam May

      P.S. Emily Wallen, look to your left.

    • Yup.

      As a person who did the show, I agree.

    • Anonymous  

      You are so irritating

    • Ummmmm...  

      "A real review" involves doing some research and objectively reviewing the show, not just shitting on everyone involved in the production.

      For one, your criticisms about set design and lighting are kind of a cheap shot when you consider that at 11PM the day before, Forum was in the space, and Lerner doesn't allow access to Roone until about 5PM due to its use during the day. All set pieces had to be of the variety that you could load in and assemble in under 3 hours, and lights weren't even focusable until a few hours before the show. I mean, you can talk shit if you want, but considering most shows take about 4 hours at least to do a light hang and focus, I'd like to see you do better with what they were given.

      I'm not going to say that the show was phenomenal, but calling it something "you expect to be written and produced by student non-majors in 3 months" is a really derogatory and snobbish statement to make. I'd say you need to stop stroking the dick of the Theatre Department before you can write "a real review"

    • Anonymous  

      ...I didn't mind this review. Granted, I wasn't in the production, but... I mean, look. You've got one overly saccharine review, and one overly vitriolic one. Maybe it's too much to expect an actual balanced review; can't the community at large look at the "shit on XMAS" review and the "we love everyone" review and realize that the truth is somewhere between those two extremes? Plenty of the comments were uncalledfor (the "non-majors" quip--especially given that at Columbia "non-majors" includes just about every professional actor on campus, of which there are quite a few--and the implication that some of the actors were not "competent"). But as a whole, at least this review offered an opinion, outlined things that the author liked and disliked, and took a stance. It might have been a more credible stance if the author had signed his or her name, but at least it gives the impression of being a considered reaction from an engaged audience member. Too many bwog reviews lately feel like they picked a few actors at semi-random to praise, and one p-team/c-team member to trash, usually whoever handled the technical aspects, and called it a day.

      However, in typical bwog fashion, a review of the review:
      While this was a sometimes-serviceable review, the prose as a whole over-relied on adjectival descriptors for each individual, an elementary flaw of review-writing. In addition, the writing betrayed a bias towards departmental theater, which simply has different goals and aims than something like XMAS, which should be judged first and foremost by its success or failure at achieving its own goals. Furthermore, the reviewer displayed a typical self-indulgent glee in writing insults, which, while it is lovely coming from the pen of Roger Ebert, is a bit condescending coming from one who is presumably a fellow student. (Also, nobody likes the word "titular." It sounds like a bad boob joke.) However, the reviewer was wise to keep the plot summary to one paragraph, and at least provided some distinction between the more and less successful elements of the production, even if that distinction consisted only of painting each individual's contribution with a black-and-white brush labeled "competent or not." Ultimately, the review must be respected for what it is: an attempt to provide a serious and thorough opinion, which has been lacking on bwog of late. If the presentation thereof lacked tact, the intention is nevertheless admirable.

      tl;dr: when you whine about the lack of criticism in bwog reviews, don't *just* complain more when you get what you asked for. Perhaps a readership capable of appreciating nuance will eventually get writers capable of producing it.

      p.s., sorry for the grandiosity of this post. I'm sitting in Butler, and this is my break from the hell that is studying for finals.

    • See, I can be douchey too!


  23. whoa  

    what's with the fleet of peter stern lovers? I feel like they haven't met him in person.

    Besides that, this is a terrible review. The play had a lot of faults, none of which are addressed. I want my dollar back, please.

  24. How is this a review?

    No mention of the direction or choreography at all? How is this review anything more than a plot summary that manages to mention all the actors' names? Yes, they were all talented and wonderful, but a review should focus on the behind-the-scenes work that really goes into a show, and is seen in the end result...Please keep that in mind the next time you write a theatre review. Everyone who works hard on a production deserves to be reviewed, just as much as the actors onstage.

  25. Anonymous  

    Emily Wallen was the BEST part about the show, no doubt. Like, she was the cutest. And she has such a beautiful voice. Ah! So wonderful.
    Anyway, I saw the 8pm performance and was pretty bummed with a lot of the tech stuff (which I mean, wasn't really that big of a deal it was just distracting). Also the writing was lame at parts, and I thought the plot could have used a loooot more development...but I mean, for such a short show it was fine.
    Not as good as last years Xmas (they had big shoes to fill, shit was hilaaarious), but still not a bad way to spend the last day of classes. :)

  26. Could it be that...  

    ...Emily Nagel is related to Thomas Nagel?

  27. Anonymous

    Well, all I have to say is that Jeff and Emily both wrote a great show and looked HOT last night.

  28. Peter Sterne  

    Had AIDS, but cured it by roundhouse kicking it to the face.
    Also via a stem cell transplant.

  29. Dear Will  

    You have a really hot bod. But when you're supposed to be a corporate bigwig, skinny jeans do not a costume made. That is all.

    Pretty good show, if not as good as last year. The magic that is Alex Hare is most effective when on stage.

    And I agree with "Douchey McDouche" on Eli's conducting. Anything that is bound to cause muscle cramps is probably a bad idea.

  30. Ignorant question...  

    ...but who is Peter Sterne?

  31. some guy  

    who either has a lot of friends or a lot of enemies.

  32. Virgin Mary

    will you make my hemmroids go away?

  33. Bad Review Madlib, XMAS edition  

    I didn’t think the show was very good. The entire cast is very talented, but the writing was pretty bad. After seeing four of these shows, you can see the hackneyed Christmas insider jokes coming from a mile away. Both the context and the relaying of the jokes were very unoriginal, and the subplots were so disjointed. The grinch throw-in and the corporate story were pretty awful. It made the show boring and predictably cheesy. Furthermore, in true XMAS tradition, the story line was weak toward the end, causing much of the audience around me to lose interest. However, the two leads saved the show from a total disaster, and the charm and talent of the cast carried the show, effectively lifting this viewer’s judgment from a 5 to a 6.5 out of 10.

  34. Anonymous  

    I'm so tired.

  35. Eliza  (Bwog Staff)  

    Ladies and gents-- you have some thoughts! Why don't you write reviews for Bwog? Email and we'll set you up.

  36. Throwing Some Thoughts in the Fire  

    The Excellent:
    -Emily Wallen—Few people know that Roone requires A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF ENERGY like her, and she owned the role.

    The Good:
    -Thomas Spry, Andrew Wright, and Amelia Lembeck—Freshman to look out for. Very fun and natural on stage.
    -The Music—Extremely catchy and very enjoyable. One note here though—the composers have a tendency sometimes to write quick tempo lyrics in the sort Putnam County Way. I wouldn't mind it so much if Roone wasn't a clusterfuck to hear well, so you couldn't really make these out. It's not that it wasn't smart/creative, but it would serve better in a different setting.
    -Some one-liners made me laugh hard.

    The Needed-Improvement
    -The structure was really strange, and individual scenes sometimes fell flat. For a 90 minute show, the amount of exposition was ridiculous and it honestly felt a lot longer. The pacing of the story suffered from characters being trapped/sleeping/and essentially not being active enough. The best scenes kept everything moving quickly.
    -Characters like the purple nose reindeer, the hipster (which is getting old anyways), the Grinch, and the Leprechaun were hammered into the ground as one-jokes: It's always fun to have a big cast and give them a character that's a joke, but when you use it over and over it lost its edge.
    -Quite a few jokes fell flat.

    The Non-Factor
    The set was not that creative, but given that the crew could only move in there after the No Labels conference, it's hard to count that against them (Though XMAS! 4 had an amazing one). One might ask why XMAS forces themselves into Roone if it's so hard to deal with—maybe the show would do be better in Diana Black Box?

    Overall, one has to recognize the miracle that any of these shows get made. The fact the writers/composers were able to turn out material while still being students has to be recognized. Everyone in the XMAS crew/cast should be proud of themselves for getting a decent show on stage.

    • What you aren't realizing

      is that a lot of the talent onstage clearly wasn't given anything to work with. I saw so much potential in a lot of the smaller characters that must have gone unnoticed by the writers - it's not hard to do well in a huge and hysterically written part, but you can't blame the actors for shitty character development and writing.

    • good review  

      This was a very knowledgeable, fair, and optimistic outline for a review. Had you fleshed out some of your points and mentioned more specifics about the individual actors, particularly how they played their roles and what their strengths were, this would be a great candidate for a Bwog review. You're not ripping them a new one due to an unfounded superiority complex, and you're not devoting the majority of your review to plot summary in the mistaken belief that Bwoggers care more about the plot to a show they'll never see than the actors' abilities. You probably should get in touch with Bwog and see if they'll let you review something next semester.

    • Problems with the Diana  

      At least for this semester, doing XMAS in the Diana would have been quite difficult, as Silence had the space for the past two weeks. If the Department is going to continue to book the same time in the Diana Black Box every year, then moving XMAS over there would be much more trouble than it is worth. Tech requirements are more restrictive, making everything you do in the space take longer (and cost more money as a result). Also it's much smaller: you would only be able to seat a fraction of Roone's audience in the Diana with the most generous of seating setups.

      Great review though, much fairer than both the Bwog Review and the bashing one.

    • Anonymous  

      Very nice. You should do this more often, even if it's just "The good, the needed-improvement," etc.

  37. Spry  

    was amazing. I loved his enunciation. Definitely the freshest of the freshman bunch, compared to last year's newcomers.

    I loved seeing Hughes again and I do agree he is funny, but some of the attention that he's been getting in this thread should go to freshman talent - Spry and Lembeck in particular.

  38. Answer  

    I think William and Sprinkles.

  39. still confused

    It said in the first 'review' that sprinkles was supporting. Maybe the CEO?

    • william and tooth fairy  

      I believe the lead was Andrew Wright (William). He bowed with Diktowich (Tooth Fairy) so she may have been the lead since she was the romantic interest. Wallen (Sprinkles) and Spry (Thurston) bowed together, and I think they were considered supporting, especially since they bowed before Wright and Diktowich.

      The program's order is Wright, Diktowich, Weiner (Santa), Lembeck (Mrs. Claus), Wallen, and Spry. So I think Wright and Diktowich are the leads.

  40. Wallach 6  


  41. Mozzarella stickler  

    1. Arielle *Ditkowich*
    2. *Beneatha* Africa
    3. "My heart's not the only thing that's *growing* three sizes"
    4. *Lembeck* in the second to last paragraph
    from the "Real Review Comment":
    5. *its* admittedly; *its* profits
    from Adam's comment:
    6. *its* flaws

  42. Anonymous  

    It seems like the actors, director, and composers weren't served well by a bad script. For all we know, Alex Hare could have directed a kickass show. He just wasn't given a good plot to work with.

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