Saturday, November 19, 2022

"The Best Christmas Show in Three Years" by Brave New Workshop at the Dudley Riggs Theatre

This spring, after a two year hiatus, the longest running sketch comedy troupe in the country went Back to the Workshop - the Brave New Workshop, that is. Now their annual holiday show is back for the first time in three years, and it's guaranteed to be The Best Christmas Show in Three Years. It may also be one of the best you see this year, especially if your tastes run more towards the salty than sweet side of things. This hilarious and lovable cast makes fun of all the silly things surrounding the holiday season, while still celebrating being together and laughing. Lots of laughing. It plays at the newly christened Dudley Riggs Theatre (honoring the founder of the company who passed away recently) in downtown Minneapolis through January 28. Click here for info and tickets.

As always, BNW's Artistic Director and director of the show Caleb McEwan was on hand to welcome the audience and introduce the show. Then cast members Denzel Belin, Taj Ruler, Lauren Anderson, and Doug Neithercott opened the show with an original song about the holidays and the show itself, accompanied by Jon Pumper on keyboard, a fifth member of the troupe who gets in on some of the jokes. The (very loose) theme of this year's show is that since the last two holiday seasons were partly or mostly cancelled due to covid, the pressure is on to make this one perfect. Which is a recipe for disaster, or at least a lot of comedy.

Taj Ruler, Doug Niethercott, Denzel Belin,
Jon Pumper, and Lauren Anderson
Sketches lovingly skewer everything about the holidays, from fruit cake (a special edible kind) to Christmas trees (the more, the weirder) to Santa's self-worth problem (call in the Gay Hype Squad!) to the most awful and disturbing Christmas song - "The Christmas Shoes" (it's a real song, folks). Other sketches include a Christmas monster, a pilot who accidentally runs into Santa flying around up there, and a dad who returns his daughter's homemade gift for cash (times are hard). And of course, the BNW holiday show wouldn't be complete without their very special rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" about all the things that one's parents, neighbors, family, and Alexa say.

The Best Christmas Show in Three Years is the second holiday* show I've seen this year (getting it out of the way the week before Thanksgiving, as Caleb pointed out), and it's always a great one to sort of break up the sincerity of some of the other shows around town. This year in particular, it encourages us to let go of the idea of a perfect holiday, and just have fun and laugh at the things that go wrong. Taj, Lauren, Doug, and Denzel are all so funny, very committed to the silliness, taking the comedy seriously but not themselves. They really are so much fun to watch and laugh at/with.

Head to the Dudley Riggs Theatre, the newest member of the historic Hennepin Theatre Trust spaces, for The Best Christmas Show in Three Years, playing now through January 28.

*Click here for reviews of all of the holiday shows I've seen this year.