Hey look. I have not blasphemed. I am just quoting the title of the latest holiday offering now onstage at the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts, home to Ryan Landry and those rascally Gold Dust Orphans! And I must say, the title alone had me in hysterics. As a lapsed and relapsed Catholic who still retains more than a modicum of reverence for the spiritual life, I thought this show was divinely debauched, heavenly fun. In typical Orphans fashion–drag–JESUS CHRIST, IT’S CHRISTMAS is a zany mashup of Christmas movie classics “The Bishop’s Wife” and its re-make–“The Preacher’s Wife” and a riot of show tunes, wacky stagecraft, Liberace, Ryan’s dog Rhoda, and a Jesus to-die-for. I mean, this guy slayed me. More later.
The tension mounts as Bishop Henry (an insanely square Paul V.Melendy (Check out Melendy’s hilarious nude TV commercial for Bernie & Phyl’s) who must build a cathedral for his congregation and is at the mercy of his wealthy congregants, among them key donor Whitney Houston (an absurdly over the top Qya Marie) and her evil handler Miss tinsel (Ryan Landry in silver sparkle stockings and a manic gleam in her eye), who insists the Bobby Brown memorial chapel be built in the shape of Bobby’s head. Enter Jesus Christ, or “Hey Zoos” to save the day! Casey Preston hits the stage in a crown of thorns, gleaming white teeth, long blonde locks, and a loincloth. More surfer dude than savior, he immediately hits on the comely and neglected Bishop’s wife Julia and puts her at the top of his “to do” list. Julia ((“The Donkey Show”‘s Darcie Champagne) feels the heat too, and belts out a soul-stirring “I don’t know how to love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The meshuganah messiah also grabs the attention of the Bishop’s pregnant secretary Miss Gooch (Sam Reichert ) who on first seeing the ripped redeemer declares, “Looks like I started drinking again, because somebody just brought me a six-pack.”
The whole thing ends up in Liberace’s (Gene Dante also does a mean Paul Lynde!) Gay Cafe, but not before appearances by Stevie Nicks, & Judy Garland (Liza Lott who almost strangles herself with the mike cord as she croons a Christmas tune in jittery falsetto.) Along the way there’s Larry Coen in a variety of madcap parts including an obscenely “nutty” Professor, Scott Martino as Matilda the drunken maid, a tableau of dancing reindeer, and in an ingenious bit of stagecraft– Julia & Jesus skating in tandem on thin ice.
Director James P. Byrne keeps things moving and knows just how far is too far to push a pun, or cross a line. But what also makes this absolutely work– besides an exceedingly talented repertory cast of singer/dancer/actors to count on, is writer/director/producer Landry’s love for the very conventions he’s satirizing. He has great comic instincts. But he also has at the ready a deep reservoir of knowledge about classic movies and broadway musicals which he is able to spin into ever more questionable but entertaining circumstances; his love for these cornball conventions, makes the satire uncannily accurate (sets, costumes, & sound are dead on) and sidesplittingly funny, but also sweeter. Paul Melendy in the earnest leading straight man role (channeling Jimmy Stewart, or David Niven here) embodies the balance perfectly. He actually almost made me cry in the middle of this outrageous material.
Even so, DON’T TAKE THE KIDS. Or your deeply religious aunt. Do take it all with a grain of salt and maybe a little toddy (the bar is open!) and that’s what I call a recipe for CHRISTMAS CHEER! At the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts/Machine 1254 Boylston Street through Dec 21st!