Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)

Adobe Rose Theatre
Review by Mark Dunn

Also see Dean's review of The Pirates of Penzance and Rob's review of Constellations

Mariah Olesen, Koppany Pusztai, and Dylan Norman
Photo by Lynn Roylance
Christmas shows for the stage come in two forms. The first is the traditional holiday story, told with warmth, sentimentality, and some degree of inoffensive convention. (Think: A Christmas Carol, the popular "radio play" version of It's a Wonderful Life, and—with just of sprinkling of irreverence—the new musical version of Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story.) The other popular Christmas mainstay is the "pageant," a catch-all offering that may be nothing more than an evening of popular Yuletide songs or, more ambitiously, something akin to vaudeville with mistletoe. This latter category of holiday production respects the sensibilities of all those who revere the season, yet are still able to have some fun with our many tinsel-draped icons and sacred stable cows.

The Adobe Rose Theatre's production of The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), written (for the most part) by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, falls squarely in that second camp, and has as much fun with those cows (there's actually a cow character in the show) as may be had in the hip hamlet of Santa Fe without, of course, trampling too disrespectfully on what is embraced by lovers of the season.

The show is inventively directed by Kate Chavez and Robin Holloway (who also serves as music director). This great team taps into the multiple talents of a wonderfully versatile cast, allowing for a festive spirit of spontaneity and improvisation, which easily makes it their own. Political references are up to date, and the gifted theatrical wunderkind Dylan Norman (he's only twenty!), who has one of the best voices of any singer in Santa Fe right now, does a spot-on impression of our country's pixieish attorney general. Koppany Pusztai—complete with the appropriate red MAGA cap—gives us a funny caricature of Donald Trump, to boot. One of the highlights of opening night, and something completely unanticipated, was an audience-abetted rewriting of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to include "a failed Republican tax bill" and "articles of impeachment."  Mariah Olesen rounds out the trio with a wry flair for comedy that easily keeps up with the agile high jinks of her male companions.

Other high points of this fast-paced holiday mash-up are send-ups of Clement Clarke Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (more commonly known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas"), appropriated to address the inconvenience of holiday plane travel, and amusingly delivered by Norman, and a performance by "Elfish" Presley, delivered by Pusztai, who later gives us a great caricature of the original "Jewish mother"—Jesus' mom. When the Confederate Christian Carolers can't make the show due to bad weather, our trio is called upon to sing the CCC's KKK version of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" to their hilarious horror.

The second act is mostly given over to a "panto" commedia dell'arte telling of the original Christmas story, complete with barn animals; the three Magi, dressed as Bee Geeian disco dancers; visiting shepherds (including a "German shepherd" with a strong Bavarian accent); and occasional commentary by correspondent Wolf Blitzen.

The set design by Geoff Webb results in a nice playing area against a backdrop of blow-ups of old-fashioned Christmas cards. It is well served by Michael Blake Oldham's colorful lighting design and a plethora of appropriately zany props gathered by Melissa Chambers.

The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged) does include a bit of audience involvement, but no one goes on stage who doesn't want to. Audiences are also asked to participate in the show's gift exchange. If you didn't bring a gift (five dollars or less in value) to trade for something already under the tree, there are gifts for sale in the lobby.

And don't let the title fool you. The show's authors, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, longtime members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, use the word "abridged" in all their theatrical "reductions." In this case it serves as disclaimer—should one be required—of the claim that you'll actually be seeing the ultimate Christmas show. Instead, you'll get to enjoy a very funny full-length attempt at the next best thing—which the talented folks associated with this production ably deliver, tied up with a nice bow. And don't forget to visit the best concession stand in Santa Fe (I love the coconut-infused popcorn).

The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), directed by Kate Chavez and Robin Holloway, at the Adobe Rose Theatre, 1213B Parkway Drive, Santa Fe NM. Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:00, Sundays at 3:00. Through December 17, 2017. Info at or 505-629-8688. The running time is about two hours, including one intermission.