Saturday, November 27, 2021

"Holiday Show! the holiday show" at DalekoArts

A local theater fan arranges for all of their favorite actors to come to their home under false pretenses, locks them in, and orders them to create and perform a new holiday* show. No, I'm not describing my pandemic fantasy, this is the plot of DalekoArts' return to the stage after a 21-month extended intermission (during which time they produced an all-virtual subscription box season called "Daleko Home Invasion"). The new original comedy Holiday Show! the holiday show is a ridiculous and loving ode to theater, the holidays, and being together. In other words, it's perfect for this odd and lovely season we're living in. Holiday Show plays weekends through December 19 in charming historic downtown New Prague, just a quick jaunt over the river and through the woods (and farm fields). Their programming is always worth the drive, and their 10th season looks to be a great one, continuing with the "hilarious and heart-breaking" play Lone Star Spirits, and the second regional production of the eight-time Tony-winning musical Once. If you've not been to New Prague lately, now is a good time for a visit (click here for info on the season).

The only reason I leave the house is because no one does theater in my living room, but if you're a rich eccentric owner of a mansion in New Prague, you can arrange for just such a thing! A half dozen local performers show up at what they think is an audition for a show that will go straight from New Prague to Broadway (a common trajectory), only to find that they've been tricked. The stern butler Eli (Ben Thietje) appears to tell them that the doors have been locked, and they need to create a holiday show in which each one of them sings a song, all to entertain the eccentric millionaire who needs to see a little more holiday spirit in the world (even if he has to resort to kidnapping and threats to get it).

Amanda White, Nora Sonneborn, Ryan Lee, Lauren Anderson,
and Amanda Mai (photo courtesy of DalekoArts)
Each one of the characters is a broad cliché of a theater type - the naïve young ingénue (Amanda Mai), the pretentious Shakespearean actor who speaks in quotes (Amanda White), the musical theater performer who's worked at "the Chan" for seven straight years (Ryan Lee), the diva from a small Northern Minnesota town (Lauren Anderson), the hipster guerilla theater spoken word artist (Nora Sonneborn), and the oddball no one can quite figure out (Anthony Zadra). They bicker and work together, as each sings a song that's perfect for their character, all familiar holiday songs, some of them with new and hilarious lyrics. The plot is really just an excuse for lots of in-character carrying on, making affectionate fun of theater and theater people, while in the end celebrating the communal spirit that theater engenders.

Written by cast-members Lauren Anderson and Ben Thietje, and directed by Ben, the script is chock full of local references (who knew there was such a rivalry between New Prague and Shakopee?!) and silly gags. The entire cast is having so much fun with their characters, each one just a joy to watch. The songs are fun and well-chosen, mostly sung for comedic effect, but "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is never not poignant, especially now.

The set is a cozy warm living room that I'd like to settle into for a while (and bears more than a little resemblance to the set of Ada and the Engine, the last show performed on Daleko's intimate stage in February 2020). Christmas cheer abounds, and the cast is dressed in very specific and character-defining costumes. (Set design by Robin McIntyre, costume design by Amanda White.)

DalekoArts has a tradition of original holiday comedies, and the sweet and silly Holiday Show is another in that vein. Visit New Prague Thursdays through Saturdays (proof of vaccination and mask required, and Thursday shows are at 50% capacity).

*Click here to read about all of the holiday shows I've seen this year.