XMAS!11: North Pole State of Mind is a student-written, holiday-themed, non-denominational musical. Last night, Staff Writer Lexie Lehmann went to the show (instead of studying for her finals), and was pleasantly amused by the show’s witty humor and clever storyline.
XMAS! is a popular Columbia tradition that serves to provide a cathartic, entertaining outlet for students during the stressful finals season. In doing so, the XMAS! cast aims to “take grand risks, be absurd without hesitation, and satirize the holiday season”. XMAS!’s recognizable motto is, “XMAS! Is for everyone!”, referencing the secular nature of the show – it can be received and appreciated by any Columbia student.
In XMAS!11: North Pole State of Mind, the cast takes a popular holiday character and “exposes his scandal-ridden past”. This year, that character is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – now, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Addict. After having a little too much “snow”, Rudolph crashed Santa’s sleigh into an orphanage, leaving no survivors. Now, unemployed and soul-searching, Rudolph goes to New York City to start a fresh new life.
In New York, Rudolph meets Noelle, a Columbia student, and Camille, an NYU-student, in Washington Square Park. An old friend of his, Blitzen the reindeer, also shows up. Camille invites everyone to a holiday party for students who don’t have Christmas plans. In the next scene, Noelle and Rudolph start to get to know each other, and Rudolph finds out that Noelle is an outcast, too. As a child, she had been the face of Fischer Yo-Yo’s, before the Yo-Yos were recalled for cutting off children’s fingers. The two hit it off immediately.
After the holiday party, Rudolph decides to return home to the North Pole to see his parents and try to make amends with Santa. Once there, Santa – who turns out to be the naughtiest character of all – recruits Rudolph to come back as the Head of the Sleigh. Blitzen is jealous, and develops a scheme to sabotage Rudolph into relapsing into his eggnog-and-snow addiction.
While the plot of XMAS! was surely entertaining, albeit a bit dark, the spirited character personalities made the show quite incredible. One of the most standout performances was from Jahbril Cook, who played Blitzen. Cook’s impressive vocals were augmented by the music’s complex harmonies, particularly in his duets with Xander Browne, who played Rudolph. Another hilarious character was Matt Malone, who played an awkward party-goer and also Santa’s servant elf. Both actors embodied their quirky characters in a very believable and entertaining way, which greatly contributed to the musical’s silly story line.
I was impressed by the student’s work in this full scale musical. The show’s set consisted of a large book that flipped between pages of New York City and the North Pole to clearly define where each scene was located. Additionally, the show’s lighting was appropriately dominated by red and green tones – a subtle, but much appreciated addition. The show’s props were another highlight; I particularly enjoyed a dance number about Noelle’s yo-yo past wherein all of the background dancers played with yo-yos themselves.
I was also very amused by the large amount of alumni participation and enthusiasm from the crowd. Previous members of XMAS! had reserved seats in the center of the auditorium, and they were cheering loudly and making hilarious asides throughout the entire show. This enthusiasm helped to continue propelling the show’s energy forward, and kept the tone of the crowd very positive despite the plot’s bleak nature.
Overall, I was super pleased with XMAS!11, and I can’t wait to go next year. The show’s creative take on a well-known character was clever, witty, and super funny. The show’s music and conduction was original and upbeat, with short interludes of popular holiday tunes. I laughed throughout the musical at the character’s large personalities and daring comedic choices. XMAS was the perfect relief for my finals season stress, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go!
North Pole State of Mind via XMAS! Facebook page