A Very Naughty Christmas (Understudy Productions)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre
December 3 – 13
It takes a lot to make audience participation in theatre successful, especially when performers are having to work hard in guide of ‘volunteer’ contributions, however, in what has become “A Very Naughty Christmas” tradition, deviant Santa Stephen Hirst and Stacey de Waard ensure that this section of Understudy Productions’ 2020 show is once again one of its highlights. Of course audience involvement looks a little different this year, without any on-stage participation, however, in the show’s fourth year, it is still as funny as ever as the audience is given “A Christmas Carol” unlike any other.
There is a familiarity to other sections of the adults-only Christmas comedy too and move along from a punctuation to grammar gag amongst its easy low-brow humour. Aurélie Roque gets into the holiday spirits to bitterly share of her bedroom issues with Saint Nick in a totally-inappropriate ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ and an Andrew Sisters with a twist number delivers an upbeat ‘Let it Snow’. There is return too of the perennially favourite “Mean Girls” ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ routine, masterfully mixed into the rum pump um pum of Justin Bieber and Busta Rhymes’ ‘Drummer Boy’ to amp up the energy. Comedy and musical numbers are appropriated updated with WAP and TikTok type pop culture references (most notably in Emily Kristopher’s naughty nod to the role technology can play in creating connection over the holidays) and even some political touches. And things still tie together nicely with a ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ closing snowfall of red and green confetti to affix an exclamation point to a night of shared celebration at having made it through this dumpster fire of a year.
Pre-show, those new to experience of the franchise are almost lured into expectations of tradition with share of ‘We Three Kings” et al Christmas classics and a lively ‘Feliz Navidad’, from Brisbane’s sexiest carolling tin soldiers, Melissa Russo, Steph Long and Santa’s little helper Shay Debney. What follows is a show of cabaret style escapism featuring a range of musical styles and wonderful harmonies. Indeed, all numbers display the abundance of vocal talent within the cast and the live band (Tom Collins on keys and guitar, Chris Evans on drums, Elliot Parker on bass and band leader Luke Volker on keys) is again excellent in filling familiar tunes with appealing vigour. And Wesley Bluff’s lighting design works a treat, expertly guiding the audience from, for example, a peppy duet about puberty to Elliot Baker’s nightmarish ‘White Christmas’ yearn for return from a Christmasless life
Again there is no narrative as such, but instead a collection of segments set to show us how naughty is the new nice. From burlesque shows of skin and a David Cuny stiptease to bawdy reappropriation of traditional lyrics and a new imagining of the iconic “Love Actually” doorstep notecards scene, there is something for everyone in “A Very Naughty Christmas”… apart from the easily offended. While the upgrade from the Visy to Powerhouse Theatre represents a loss of intimacy, it does reveal more friends in which to share revel in its naughtiness. And thankfully, while Christmas comes only once a year, “A Very Naughty Christmas” is making appearance twice most nights for those wanting to get their tinsel tickled and bells jingled.