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Posts Tagged ‘the year without a santa claus’

Holiday Stop-Motion TV Extravaganza
Directed by Suki Peters
Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre
December 1, 2018

Amy Kelly, Ben Ritchie, Joseph Cella
Photo by Ron James
Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre

Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre is back with all its quirky, unpolished an unapologetically silly approach to pop culture parody. The focus of their latest production is a look back at well-known stop-motion holiday specials from the 1960s and 70s, particularly the now-iconic Rankin-Bass hits Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Year Without a Santa Claus. And there are commercials, too!

As is usual for this company, the look and atmosphere is colorful, but not overly polished in terms of production values. There’s an all-purpose holiday-themed set, whimsically painted by Fox Smith, and some clever costumes by Kayla Lindsey that suggest the look of these well-known specials without trying to look exactly like them. The energy comes from the whimsical atmosphere, the period-styled commercials, and slightly twisted and occasionally slightly raunchy approach to the story (mostly PG-13, I would say), and especially the hilarious comic performances. Many of these performers have been in Magic Smoking Monkey shows before, and the atmosphere is enthusiastic and joke-a-minute funny. Also, aside from Santa (Ben Ritchie), everyone plays two or more characters over the course of the two stories presented here. For the most part, the plots follow the specials on which they are based, with a few additions and tweaks–for instance, one source of debate about Rudolph involves the Island of Misfit toys and its not being obvious why Dolly (Payton Gillam), a seemingly typical little girl doll,  is a “misfit”. Well, this show has answer for the that. The jokes range from visual to verbal, and if you don’t laugh at one, there is bound to be another that you will find hilarious.

There’s a great cast here, as well, with standouts being Ritchie’s droll Santa, Amy Kelly’s spunky Mrs. Claus, Shannon Nara in a dual role as Clarice the reindeer and as the no-nonsense Mother Nature, Ron Strawbridge in a number of roles including the competitive Heat Miser, Gillam in several roles, and Joseph Garner as Rudolph. The biggest standout, though, has to be Robert Thibaut, who puts in two scene-stealing performances, first as Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist in the Rudolph story, and then in an old-fashioned song-and-dance act as Snow Miser in Year Without a Santa Claus. There’s a lot of offbeat energy here as usual, and it’s a fun way to appreciate some of the more kitschy elements of holiday pop culture. These two specials are classics, and they’re given a suitably over-the-top, truly hilarious treatment by Magic Smoking Monkey that’s a whole lot of festive fun.

Cast of Holiday Stop-Motion Extravaganza
Photo by Ron James
Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre

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