Yes, you read that headline correctly. Christmas is being celebrated on other planets, and has special significance on those indiscreetly-named celestial bodies currently being invaded by Ryan Landry’s GOLD DUST ORPHANS. I laughed my ass off, and so will you! If you like silly, bawdy fun in the holiday spirit, then CHRISTMAS ON URANUS is right up your alley. The Orphans have set up shop in new digs on Broadway–368 West Broadway to be exact, at the South Boston Lithuanian Citizens’ Association (Did those Lithuanians know what they were getting into?).
In this season’s mock-heroic Christmas caper courtesy of the Orphans, Santa has been kidnapped by Uranian dictator Minge the Merkinless (beware revealing costumes once again designed by the anatomically explicit House of Martino) and the Robinson family has set out to rescue him. Naturally they get lost in space, touching down on Venus where no one has arms. They fight their way through a deadly Black Friday on Mars. It’s but a hop, skip and a jump to Pluto where they encounter a race of winged dogs–Ryan’s new pup among them in a stellar cameo. At last weekend’s performance, the pooch greeted the audience with a giant yawn. (Is that dog on sedatives or is he already used to Ryan’s flights of farcical fancy?)
In any case, I promise you won’t fall asleep; the somewhat complicated plot is punctuated by knockout vocals, whimsical production numbers, non-stop puns, all topped off with a sincerely lovely rendition of my favorite Christmas tune “Carol of the Bells,” sung straight by a cast in drag and out. Enjoy. Don’t bring the kids. Do let your hair down. There’s a bar and a great restaurant right downstairs that serves stuffed cabbage and Lithuanian pierogis (I’m half polish. I love anything stuffed.) See “Christmas On Uranus” at the Lithuanian Club Theatre through December 28!
There’s also one more week to see PARADE, an excellent production from Moonbox Productions. This infrequently performed Tony Award- winning musical co-conceived and directed on Broadway by Harold Prince is here ambitiously directly by Jason Modica. It is particularly relevant now in an era where “otherness” continues to split the country and is at the core of every conversation personal, political, social. The same was true in Atlanta near the turn of the century where and when the true story on which this musical is based, took place.
On April 26 1913, 13 year-old Mary Phagan was found murdered in the basement of a factory run by Jewish overseer Leo Frank. Frank’s trial made national headlines and was a lightning rod for the burning issues of the day still smoldering from the civil war: racism, antisemitism, poverty, ongoing class and cultural warfare between north and south–all of it fueled by a rabid press and local, scapegoating politicians looking to use the murder to further their own ascendance to power.
Out of this story comes a fiery musical with a poignant lyrical score (Jason Robert Brown), crackling with ragtime rhythms and breaking your heart with bittersweet melodics by way of yiddish folk tunes. The offstage but still visible orchestra (music director Catherine Stornetta) is terrific. Choreography (Kira Troilo ) energizes the action and keeps this tale moving. The set is dominated by a large tree center stage from which hangs a swing and the spirit of the murdered girl. The tree also highlights the alienation suffered by Brooklyn born Leo Frank, rootless in the south; Phil Tayler embodies Frank’s sense of displacement and fear.
Haley K. Clay as Leo’s wife Lucille is charismatic and increasingly authoritative in the role with appropriately piercing vocals; she need only temper her cheery disposition a bit as she visits her distraught husband in prison. Anna Bortnick as Mary Phagan is a fine actress with a soaring voice, and extraordinarily winning in the relatively minor but pivotal role of the murdered girl. Aaron Patterson makes his mark with nimble vocals and a sly smile as duplicitous convict Jim Conley, and Gable Kinsman in his Boston professional debut as an earnest young confederate soldier and Mary’s would-be suitor is an up and comer with a excellent voice. This is a tough play, tackling ugly issues with hard lessons we’ve yet to learn. But this production does them justice. See PARADE at the BCA’s Calderwood, Roberts Studio Theatre through December 28!