On Monday, December 12, Arts Editor Grace Novarr and Events Editor Ava Slocum attended the one and only performance of How the Grinch Saved XMAS! 17: A Midwinter Night’s Fever Dream.

’Twas the night before XMAS!, when all through the campus, the students were sleeping—or staying up studying—under the new-fallen snow. Yes, we did get our first snow of the semester on Sunday night, and yes, finals are terrible. But the snow set the mood for this year’s performance of XMAS!, when we got to take a break from our studies to go watch the funny, highly irreverent, student-written holiday musical!

XMAS! has been a student tradition for the last 17 years, and the 2022 edition did not disappoint! How the Grinch Saved XMAS! 17 was directed and choreographed by Diana Gregoire (CC ’23) and Shania Pahuja (BC ’24), with music and lyrics by Daniella Sapone (BC ’25). Based on the note in the program (which was a work of comedic genius in itself), this year’s XMAS! is “not only a light-hearted comedy” but also “a serious contemporary critique of capitalism.” The team of writers—Brooks Gillespie (BC ’25), Catherine Callahan (GS ’23), Masha Sokolova (CC ’24), and Owen Mefford (CC ’24)—wrote a sharply witty script centered around an investment banking office’s “nondenominational holiday party” that certainly balances corporate criticism with XMAS!’s signature R-rated charm.

The show opened with an overture from the amazing pit orchestra, which featured 14 student musicians (many of whom also played in the pit for In the Heights!) and showcased Sapone’s creative score from the very beginning. Next, we met the cast members with the opening number “A Holiday Party!” which gave a series of little vignettes into the dynamics of the CEO and his “Sexcretary,” the four investment bankers who function oddly like the Plastics from Mean Girls, the bromance between marketers Johnald and Ryan, and the interns Ivy and Holly who collectively crush on Blake, the hot but dimwitted receptionist.

The program lists the cast both by character name and the character whom their character is playing. In the song “A Holiday-Halloween Party,” we learn that this nondenominational holiday party is also a costume party because “everyone was mad that HR forgot to throw the Halloween party,” according to the long-suffering HR guy Arthur, played by Kevin Chaikelson (CC ’23).

The show was structured as a collection of overlapping stories of the people who work in their tedious office jobs, which provided balance and gave each cast member a chance to shine, as most of the songs, though mostly ensemble-based, all had a different featured singer. As the show goes on, and in the second act after the Boss makes the harrowing announcement that no one is leaving the party until the end-of-year fiscal report is finished and on his desk, the songs get more and more frenzied, showcasing Sapone’s composition skills (and the cast and pit’s ability to keep up!). The costumes, meanwhile, represent everything from Shrek and Fiona to Cinderella to Darth Vader, which made the show fun to watch no matter what the characters were doing.

Hannah Karsting (CC ’25) was a standout as the Sexcretary, who wore an elf costume and slid around the stage with an eye on the Boss (Armand Procacci, CC ’23), dressed as a 6’5’’ shirtless “Santa Daddy.” Although the show seemed at first like it was playing into the stereotype of a woman sleeping around to gain power in a corporate environment, in Act II the Sexcretary reveals that she is the one behind all of the CEO’s schemes, and it is she who hides the key in plain sight so that the staff can escape from the office. She earned audience cheers when she dumps the Boss once and for all, announcing, “I knew my fatal flaw was trusting a man!”

Sofia Bianchi (GS ’23) also made a hilarious Darth Vader (whose costume magically morphs into Slave Leia in Act II), and Sapone’s score incorporates snippets of the “Imperial March” at several key moments as the character struts around the stage leaving everyone to guess at their actual role in the company.

Meanwhile, Ivy (Daisy Burckin, ‘BC 26) and Holly (Lilly Gasterland-Gustafsson, BC ’25) played off of each other fantastically as the two interns desperate for both career success and Blake’s love, and Holly’s Act II song “UTI” (with music and lyrics by Brooks Gillespie) incorporates tap-dancing, colorful lights, and a Bollywood dance sequence into a strange fever dream as Holly bemoans her embarrassing ailment.

The show ended with all the characters united, not quite free from the corporate demands on their life, but ready for a few weeks off as they head into winter vacation. As Johnald, the marketing bro who tries to stage a rebellion, says, “It was never about escaping the office; it was about the friends we made along the way!”

XMAS! cast via Grace Novarr