XMAS!6 Delights and Disappoints

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This seemed appropriate

XMAS!6, A Mall-y Jolly, XMAS!, was performed twice yesterday in Roone, and was the sixth such annual holiday extravaganza. Senior Arts and Religion critic, Alex Jones, reviews this year’s pre-finals musical relief. 

XMAS! aims to be a last little bit of bright, holiday musical cheer before a week of finals-induced misery, XMAS!5 producer Steele Sternberg, CC’13, explained to me before the show. With a small budget, and a short window of rehearsal time, XMAS! faces compromises that larger productions, such as the Varsity Show, do not.

However, XMAS!6 compares favorably to its lavishly supported big brother. Having contributed to the review of V117, I urge this year’s VShow creative team to take a look at XMAS!6 for some inspiration. Though it lacked a polished coherence—some, indeed most, elements fell flat during the performance—there were moments, and characters, which achieved unique and appreciable comedic success.

The opening number, “Celebrate With Us,” immediately demonstrated the robust and lively musical accompaniment. The composers, Nick Parker CC ’14 and Solomon Hoffman CC ’14, crafted catchy and charming melodies. The delightful music was, at moments, more enjoyable than anything happening on stage. Despite such moments, it felt like the rest of XMAS!6 fell into the common student theatre trap of extended musical numbers, which become tiresome and don’t progress the plot. “Celebrate With US”, like many in the show, could be more effective if halved in length.

The central storyline was introduced between the first and second songs. Oh boy! Another love story featuring two awkward, yet well-intentioned, loners—a device that makes red and green seem like a novel Christmas combination. Whenever the show veered back to develop or concentrate on that story, the audience was unengaged, and many checked their phones. It was bad.

Despite disappointment in the storyline, the following second number, “Try Love,” highlighted the vocal talent of Jessica Chi, CC ’15. This was Jessica’s college theatre debut, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see her succeeding in future roles. Her on-stage love interest, played by Emile Barraza, SEAS ’13, was too-often bailed out by Jessica’s clear singing voice and confident stage presence.

As the musical proceeded, the plot was progressed by pretty uninteresting dialogue. Fortunately, the audience’s attention was salvaged by frequent plot twists and surprising turns of events, relieving periodic disengagement due to the formulaic romance. When the unoriginal central love story again took center stage in  “The Wrong Way,” Kate, played by Samantha Grecco BC ’13, painfully questioned her professional path in comparison to the gleeful lives of the mall workers surrounding her. Again talent was dragged down by a dull plot device, in what might have been the low point of the evening. Samantha played her part well, but her character was a complete bore.

In contrast, the show was redeemed, if not stolen, by Body Shop Greg and Hot Topic Craig, Sean Walsh CC ’14 and David Offit GS/JTS ’13. The duo played characters whose love story was original, well-developed, and humorously tilted. This is the love story that the audience connected with, appreciated, and showered with laughs and applause. “Man of My Dreams” was both hilarious and emotionally rich, unlike any of the scenes featuring Adam (Sam Mickel CC ’14) and Kate.

For all of the lack innovation in the principal love story, it was clear that many of the show’s biggest laughs came from stock characters, familiar tropes from today’s TV. Can anyone look at Crazy Gertrude, Bella Pori, BC ’15, without instantly recognizing Jillian Belk from Workaholics? Adam, and perhaps the whole mall theme, was almost definitely inspired by Henry Pollard from Party Down, and Patti, Lizzie Logan, CC ’14, was definitely a lifted April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation. I would be very surprised if these relations weren’t intentional, and in the case of Patti and Crazy Gertrude, the show benefited tremendously from the prepackaged comedic styling.

Considering the constraints of producing XMAS!, it’s easy to call the show successful on the whole. The good times about made up for the bad, even if the whole production seemed to run a bit long. Most importably, I enjoyed myself, and certainly won’t begrudge a show that makes gratuitous Justin Bieber references. XMAS!6 hit the mark, and was one of the better student written performances I’ve seen at Columbia.

EDIT: XMAS!6 co-writer Liz Watson assures Bwog that all characters were entirely original, and the product of writers’ and cast members’ imaginations. That being the case, Bwog extends its original compliment further for what were truly entertaining characters. But seriously, people, watch more TV!

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  1. One addendum  

    The single best thing in this performance was the "Ezra" character.

    • Anonymous  

      While maybe not the most interesting part, Maddie Provo was by far the best actor on stage.

    • Sean Walsh's #1 Fan  

      MADDIE PROVO (along with SEAN!!!, David, and Hillary) SAVED THIS SHOW. HOW DARE YOU NEGLECT TO MENTION HER????. Anyway, those four people I just mentioned had unbelievable stage presence and they freakin' WERQ'd.
      XMAS!6 wasn't as good as 4, but it wasn't as horrendously awful as 5. It could have been realllllly good if the sound system had been working better. I couldn't understand a word Chris Silverberg was saying (although that might have more to do with the weird accent he was trying to pull off rather than his mic). I felt such sadness that Hillary's mic was so scratchy because she had some hilarious lines that were lost.
      Props to the composers- really well written music. Sam Grecco's voice is beeeeautiful, but alas, she has ZERO stage presence and no acting chops whatsoever.
      I'm ready to see Sean have a lead role. He is one of the most talented guys here. VShow is sure to be a real treat!

      • HIGHLY disagree  

        about Sam Grecco. She is a stunning actress with an amazing, effortless stage presence!

      • jj7  

        EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS COMMENT IS SPOT. ON. thank you. you should write reviews for bwog.
        most of the people in the show had either nice voices and no acting, or good acting but weak voices. only hillary, sean, maddie, and david had strong acting, strong voices, and killer stage presence. they carried the show—the energy rose in the room as soon as they stepped on stage.

  2. SO SICK  

    Of Bwog ripping shows apart and then at the end tacking on shit like "XMAS!6 hit the mark, and was one of the better student written performances I’ve seen at Columbia."

    If you're going to hate, hate with pride. Don't pussyfoot around.

  3. Anonymous

    Ok, I don't know what the fuck a "Workaholics" is, but you do realize that those characters you insist XMAS is copying are all based on stock types, right?

  4. anon

    who wrote it this year?

  5. CC'13  

    refreshing to read an honest review. some was good, some was bad, sounds about right.

  6. David Offit

    is a rockstar

  7. Anonymous  

    this was definitely the worst xmas of the past 4 years. the only redeemable qualities were sean walsh, david offit, hillary kritt and emily feinstein

  8. Composer Correction

    Nick Parker CC'14 composed with Solomon. Wasn't a one man job...

  9. Hmm...  

    I agree with the music part. That was great stuff, much better than the narrative. Frankly, the storyline was borderline racist, sexist, and heterosexist. The whole Santa Claus being female and black thing could've been interesting but instead didn't make any sense, as nothing in the dialogue or plot had anything to do with it beyond saying, "Holy shit! Black female Santa!" And the idea of the professional Kate folding to mall-elf Adam who hates his job, again, COULD'VE BEEN an interesting but instead seemed like a typical woman-falls-for-and-relies-on-heroic-man trope. And, finally, Greg & Craig served no purpose other than to be token gay characters who thought about nothing other than being with one another. Sure, they were funny, and Sean & David played their parts wonderfully, but the fact that they had no interesting roles in the main plot AND never kissed (while Sam's Adam and Samantha's Kate did) was a huge letdown, especially because their chemistry was so much greater than that of the "main" heterosexual couple. XMAS!6 succumbed to heteronormativity in a very real and disappointing way, and it seemed just as stock/non-progressive in other arenas as well.

  10. Anonymous  

    Sad not to see Emily and Hillary mentioned. They were by far the best part of the show.

  11. Anonymous  

    It's all very well and good to leave a bad review if you didn't like the show, but accusing its writers of lifting their characters is pretty out of line, Bwog. Particularly when those characters are from obscure television that most people haven't seen (except Parks & Recreation). This review is more disappointing than the show was.

  12. Uhhh  

    Remember how Chris Silverberg was fucking PHENOMENAL? What the hell, Bwog. Give respect where it is majorly owed.

  13. Anonymous  

    Wait, how the hell did Bwog give a great review to Zombie Prom (which was awful squared) and such a scathing review to XMAS (which, I thought, was super enjoyable)?

  14. Anonymous  

    David Offit = unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh Craig

  15. Anonymous  

    im obsessed with David Offit

  16. Anonymous  

    Agree 100%. I was cringing during those long-winded emily monologues.

  17. Anonymous  

    gotta love the way sean says 'hot. topic. craig.'

  18. Anonymous  

    If only Sean Walsh didn't have a boyfriend...*sigh*

  19. Anonymous  

    David Offit is AMAZING!!!!!

  20. CC'13  

    emily feinstein why do you exist ugh

  21. If only  

    we could go back to Xmas 4...

  22. Ummm  

    Patti wasn't channeling April Ludgate, she was channeling Grecia Barboza.

  23. help me out

    Is Hillary Kritt single?

  24. I miss

    Ben Russell. I wish he hadn't graduated. Shows on campus aren't the same without him.

  25. Anonymous

    Samantha Grecco was incredible. Her voice is amazing! I hope she performs more on campus before she graduates.

  26. Anonymous  

    Was there no one else who was grossly offended by the Ezra character? A hunched-over, jewish sex fiend who wants to destroy the christmas village for the first half of the play? Anyone who is familiar with yiddish would never call a woman who they respect a shiksa-muffin. And then we find out that he magically has large amounts of money that can save christmas? Wow.

  27. Samuel Langhorne Clemens  

    I would like to mention that Bella Pori was a God among insects. Her portrayal of "Crazy Gertrude" was stirring and unearthed emotions I didn't know I had. To watch her dance was to watch cherubs fly about the halos of saints, and to hear of her bowie knife reminisced of the tales of Homer and Herodotus. I would say Bella Pori's performance was on par with receiving free Crumbs cupcakes, or the Alma Mater turning into a pile cheese sticks.

  28. Anonymous  

    There is nothing, but NOTHING, that is better then Alma Mater turning into a pile of cheese sticks.

  29. Anonymous  

    Completely agree with this...I couldn't believe Sam Grecco had a lead with so little acting talent, and why would the writers underuse Emily Feinstein in a role that didn't fit her at all? Sam Mickel, Hillary, and Sean were fantastic throughout. However, I'm not Jewish, and I was almost offended by the way the Jewish characters were written- I was surprised they were in the show. The cast was exceptionally talented overall, and the story was somewhat engaging and amusing, but the music was weak and unmemorable. Still, I had a good time!

  30. Anonymous  

    I had fun at X-mas! Isn't that the point? David Offit, Maddie, and Hillary had fantastic timing. Emily Feinstein was the weak link, but that was mostly due to the idiotic writing. Sam Grecco's voice is wonderful. Overall, the cast was very talented. I want Hillary's coat.

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