Walking into Roone Auditorium for XMAS!13: The X-Mas! Factor, Bwoggers Abby Rubel and Jordan Merrill could not have predicted the plot of the show in their wildest dreams. Featuring catchy songs, energetic acting, and laugh-out-loud one liners, XMAS!13’s show was both incredibly entertaining and completely strange.
Directed by Sophia Houdaigui (BC ’21), the show follows Emmalena Scrooge, the great-great-grandson of Ebenezer Scrooge played by Talmage Wise (GSAS ’19), and Krampus, a demon from Hell played by Rachel Greenfeld (BC ’19) as they compete on a reality show to be the next Santa Claus.
The show, hosted by Santa’’s daughter Holly (Anna Moskowitz, BC ’19) and judged by Mrs. Claus (Arielle Firestone, GS/JTS ’19) and the cynical Ryan (Kayla Streiber, BC ’21), pits contestants against each other in Christmas-themed challenges like ice skating and toy-building. But the show is rigged! Producers, Shelly (Genevieve Joers, CC ’20) and Bruce (Joel Meyers, CC ’21), are convinced that if the show were to name Krampus the next Santa, ratings will tank and their next show, Naked and Afraid: Hannukah Unhinged, will never make it to air. They are therefore determined to make picture-perfect Emmalena the next Santa.
As the plot unraveled, we got more and more confused. We were happy to accept the initial premise: Santa is retiring, and there’s a reality show to pick his replacement. Ok. But the producers have photoshopped a picture of Holly holding a sign that reads “Christmas is for Santas and Scrooges, not Kevins and Krampus,” with a picture of Kevin McAllister from Home Alone. Apparently, they showed this picture to Santa and he got so mad at Holly that he disowned her and signed over the rights to Christmas™. But he also somehow made her host the reality show to pick his replacement. And he hasn’t talked to her in three weeks, but the show has been going on for eight weeks. (We think.) Plus, the elf who follows Santa around narrating his actions seems pretty smart. Why didn’t she figure it out sooner?
If you’re confused, that’s ok, it doesn’t really make sense. Writers Jake Arlow (BC ’19) and Louisa Melcher (CC ’20) have packed the script with enough funny lines (“If you want eight chances, celebrate Hannukah!”) that somehow the underlying structure doesn’t really matter, as long as you don’t think about it too much.
Luckily, the rest of the show is so good that we didn’t care that the plot didn’t make much sense. There’s a thoughtfully developed romance between Holly and Krampus. At the beginning of the show, Krampus feels isolated because she hasn’t bonded with the other contestants. When Holly finds out that the producers are rigging the show against Krampus and endeavors to help, the two discover the intense chemistry between them. Greenfeld embraces Krampus’s awkwardness and makes it endearing. You almost want to visit her in Hell. Although the producers try to sabotage their romance by showing Krampus the “photo” of Holly holding the nasty sign, love eventually conquers all.
The producers were also a highlight. Joers and Meyers had a great dynamic, wavering somewhere between lovers and bitter enemies. Their physical comedy was especially good; both were expressive and seemed to embody the weasels they’re called throughout the show. Additionally, their song “Overrated” was a favorites—it’s a real earworm. Lyricist Phanesia Pharel (BC ’21) and Composer Simon Broucke (CC ’19) outdid themselves with that one, and we were overjoyed when it was reprised in the second act. Sophie Visscher-Lubinizki’s (BC/JTS ’21) choreography for the song was imaginative, and the cast members sticking their hands out from the wings and doing jazz hands was a touch I greatly appreciated.
Other choreographic touches included a dance number with umbrellas to simulate a skating rink, and what we think might have been a reference to Les Miserables.
The one off note musically came in the beginning of “Skating Lessons,” in which Holly teaches Krampus to ice skate so that Krampus will be saved from elimination. Moskowitz and Greenfeld have great chemistry and the song showcases it, but the music didn’t quite line up with the lyrics, especially in the beginning of the song. Overall, however, we would greatly appreciate it if the XMAS!13 team could make the soundtrack available on Spotify as soon as possible.
Talmage Wise was also delightful, as per usual. He brought a snootiness to Emmalena that made us love to hate the character in the first act (like any good reality TV character), but the testimonials in the second act revealed a side to Emmalena that had been hidden in the first—he’s worried about belonging and that he will never live up to his family’s expectations. The show’s message was that, ultimately, everyone belongs, even goat demons from Hell and snooty aristocrats. Wise brought just the right amount of cheekiness to Emmalena. At one point, when he said the word “uplifting,” he subtly brought his hand to his chest and lifted, as if mimicking the support a bra gives. He also had great chemistry with Jack Becker’s, CC ’21, youthful Santa, although the relationship between the two was never made explicit. Just don’t think about how much older than Emmalena Santa actually is.
Overall, the show was amazing, as long as you can suspend your disbelief and not think too hard about the situation that got us all here.