The St. Everybody's Non-Denominational Universalist Church Multicultural Interfaith Holiday Variety Show and Christmas Pageant would probably be an nice, entertaining, traditional Christmas show...if that were actually the show the audience at the McDavid Studio had showed up to see.
But, fortunately for everyone, that mouthful of a show is just a guise through which the Reduced Shakespeare Company performs their hilariously holiday themed piece called, The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), brought to North Texas for the first time courtesy of Performing Arts Fort Worth.
Reduced Shakes founders Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, along with constant collaborator Matt Rippy, begin the event simple as hosts for a bigger celebration. However, when inclement weather delays the other participants, the trio is forced to cover. And what follows is a slightly new, and enjoyable, twist on the Reduced Shakespeare formula as they set their sights on Christmas, which is all the more poignant considering the ridiculously overhyped "War on Christmas" movement in the media.
The set up for the piece is a bit plodding, but quickly picks up as the RSC gang decides to use the sheet music from the absentee Confederate Christmas Carolers to serenade the audience. Predictably, as one might expect from Confederate sympathizers, the lyrics veer towards the monochromatic and eventually play judge and jury to a certain group of people responsible for Christ's crucifixion. It's a bold joke to kick things off that leads to that slightly guilt tinged laughter that is so sweet to a comedian.
There are plenty of eye-rolling moments as the guys go for some easy, pun-centric humor at times. But all things considered, they also go for the jugular a lot, considering the aforementioned touchiness of critiquing Americans' most sacred holiday.
But, nothing is safe, including pointing out the Christian holiday's roots in pagan rituals, the overt consumerism that defines the season, and even the Nativity story. Not to be left out though, Judaism, Islam, and even Kwanzaa get a good ribbing along the way.
The Reduced Shakespeare gang has made a career out of their comedic Cliff Notes versions of things, and while this show fits in nicely with that group, it still feels more charged than other shows, and thus a little more fun.
And the audience was in full agreement at opening night. Granted, the cast was aided by a handful of over-served "woo-girls," but given that they also include some improvisation and audience participation, the show makes certain that it remains engaging at all times.
Being essentially a Christmas show, though, there are also a few sweet moments that, due to the massive amounts of humor, never come off as schmaltzy or cheesy. Of course, that may just be that the season tends to imbue an inherent forgiveness for sweetness and warm fuzzies. Either way, it all works and, ultimately, it's an overall fun and different experience than the typical Christmastime show.
Even if it wasn't the St. Everybody's Non-Denominational Universalist Church Multicultural Interfaith Holiday Variety Show and Christmas Pageant that was planned.